ACTS Awareness & Connection Through Sound


To enhance spatial awareness and sensitivity to aural intimations of nature. 


Awareness & Connection Through Sounds (ACTS) is designed so that participants can develop awareness of their environment using their sense of hearing.  In a technological world where ears are seemingly flooded with endless bustles, individuals have often become inattuned and unable to differentiate sounds.  Silence has become a foreign, luxurious sensation.  This activity offers participants the opportunity to reacquaint their hearing to the different sensations surrounding an environment. 

Time and Location

TIME REQUIRED: ACTS could be completed successfully in as little as 30-45 minutes. It could also be extended to allow time to participate in small group reflection. 


Unlike many neural signals initiated by receptors of the body, the auditory stimuli travel bilaterally. The sound stimuli reach the receptors at different times. The ear closest to stimuli receives and sends the signals to the brain earlier than the other ear. Organisms endowed with the sense of audition compare the slight differences in time and intensity of the sound to determine the location of the sound.


  1. Choose a site (e.g. natural reserve, park, football field, etc.) big enough to accommodate all participants sitting at least 20 feet apart.
  2. Ask the participants to choose an area where they would like to sit QUIETLY for 20 MINUTES and document the sounds they hear.
  3. The paper (left-hand page of the notebook, if using a notebook) on which the participants will record their observations represents their environment, with the CENTER of the paper representing the location of the participant within the environment.
  4. For 20 MINUTES, each participant will quietly listen to the sounds in the environment and represent on paper where the sounds ORIGINATE in reference to the participant, what the SOURCES of the sounds are (e.g. bird, cricket, car, leaves), and the QUALITY of the sounds (e.g. loud, light, dull).
  5. The ORIGIN and SOURCE of sounds must be represented on paper as drawings, icons or symbols. Participants can use different colors to represent the QUALITY of the sounds.
  6. On a separate sheet of paper (right-hand page of the notebook facing the drawing), participants will inscribe their observations.
  7. After 20 minutes, allow participants additional time to reflect or bring their observations to closure. If additional time is given, the facilitator should announce how much additional time will be allotted.
  8. After completing their documentation, the facilitator should gather all participants to an area within the observed environment and encourage them to share their documentationsrepresentations, and/or inscriptions to a classmate or the group. Each participant should be given the opportunity to share his or her experience. Participants are also encouraged to communicate any emotions and/or impressions they feel after experiencing each sound (e.g. fearful, reminiscent, peaceful). Comparison and contrast of sounds they have just encountered to more common sounds may be a good way to ease their discomfort in sharing their experience.

This activity should be repeated several times in the same or different environments to enhance aural awareness and instill the participants’ acoustical sensitivity. For example, if the class is spending the night at a reserve, they could repeat the exercise during the morning, midday, and at night.

EXTENSIONS:Language Arts/Literature:  For any piece of literature, instruct the participants to be sensitive to poetic devices that utilize sound to appeal to them (e.g. onomatopoeia, alliteration, assonance, consonance, rhythm, etc.).  Visual/Performing Arts:  Ask participants to listen to music, and have them distinguish the different instruments or sounds they hear. If they are unable to name the instrument, let them describe the sound.Social Science:  While studying different historical periods, ask participants to imagine the sounds that one would or would not have heard during a time period (e.g. Medieval, Renaissance, World War I, World War II, Industrial Revolution, etc.)Natural Science:  Supplement ACTS with lessons on waves, frequency, and harmony.

Teacher Materials

  • pen or pencil (colored pens or pencils are strongly recommended)
  • several sheets of paper (spiral notebook is recommended)