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Hearing through our bones

Hear sounds through your bones, like a snake and other animals.
Science content (2016 curriculum): 
Biology: Features, Adaptations of Living Things (K, 1, 3, 7)
Biology: Sensing, Organ Systems (4, 5, 6)
Biology: Evolution, Natural Selection (7)
Physics: Light and Sound (1)
Lessons activity is in: 
  • tuning fork
  • hockey puck, knee, or other hard object to bang tuning fork on, but will not damage it

Roll up your sleeves to expose the tip of your elbow.
Put one pointer finger in tour ear.
With your other hand, pick up the tuning fork by the handle end.
Hit the branched end of the tuning fork hard on your knee or a surface that will not get damaged.
Press the ball of the tuning fork against your elbow bone.
Can you hear the note from the tuning fork? If you can't, try hitting the tuning fork harder and pressing your finger more firmly into your ear.

With someone to help you, you can also hear the sound if the ball of the tuning fork is pressed against your forehead, your chin, or other bone in your head.

The sound vibrations from the tuning fork travel through your bone and directly to your inner ear. We usually hear sounds through the air, which are received by our outer ear (our ear flaps) before being transferred to our inner ear.

Snakes do not have outer ears. Sound vibrations from the ground vibrate their jaw bones, which transmit the sound vibrations to their inner ear directly (as in this activity).
They are very sensitive to sounds made by small prey running nearby.

Whales hear low frequency sounds, that have travelled a long way through the ocean, through the bones of their skull.

Grades taught: 
Gr K
Gr 1
Gr 2
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Gr 7
Teaching site: 
Grandview (¿Uuqinak’uuh) Elementary
ingridscience afterschool
Science World