This is one of my favourite music lessons. I call it “whale songs and migration”, and it is a fun activity which includes many elements of geography and science.

We first looked at a video on how whales create “songs” and how they are produced. This is looking at the scientific element, of the biology of whales and how sound is produced. Researchers have studied the patterns of these sounds, and in the video they explain why they conclude that whales actually create songs, and not just random sounds. We had a little debate in our class on whether they thought whales really created songs, which led to another question “what qualifies as a song?”.

In the next step my students listened to three recordings of whale songs, and they notated these on paper (shown above) using a musical technique called “sound scaping”. This is a notation style that is new in that instead of using regular staff paper and notes, musicians will create symbols and drawings to describe the sounds they hear. Some students used colour to express what they heard, and it was interesting to see how there was a variety of symbols they used to describe the same sound they heard.

Finally, we looked at the geographical perspective. When we compare soundscape notations of whale researchers, students could see trends in whale songs around certain geographical areas. Researchers believe that whales create “trends” with their songs as they travel in packs, and when they encounter whales from another pack, they will trade certain elements from their songs. We compared this as a class to when people migrate around the world and bring certain trends and traditions from their own cultures. We can tie this into how amazing it is that God created these animals with complexity and mystery, and the joy we can have in discovering more about his creation. The world of music is so exciting, and I loved teaching this lesson that goes outside the box of what we think of as music.

Ms Brooke Sadler is an Ontario Certified Teacher graduating from Queens University. She teaches Intermediate Grade 7&8 and supervises music and video productions as well as Kindergarten movement and music.