Exploring Environmental Sounds: Create a Soundscape in Keynote

Educators across grade levels and disciplines can use this Keynote template and workflow to help students explore the auditory environment around them by building digital soundscapes. Whether the environment is out and about on a trip around your local estuary, or as close as the school's campus, this project will engage the learners! Creating a digital soundscape will challenge them to go beyond what they see in the environment to learn more about what they hear.

What is a soundscape?

A soundscape is any acoustic environment. Whether it is natural, urban or rural, it includes the cultural sounds, natural sounds, and noise included in an area.


This image shows the three main components of a soundscape; cultural sounds, natural sounds, and noise.
Three Main Components of a Soundscape

Imagine sitting in the middle of an area, closing your eyes, and simply listening to the sounds around you. What do you hear? Listen more closely. What direction are the sounds coming from? Hold your attention to the sounds. How do they start, stop, overlap, raise and lower in volume? Which sounds are cultural, human imposed on the area? Which are natural? Are there aspects of noise involved?

To get a sampling of soundscapes done professionally, listen to this:

Pond Life sample created by Derek Solomon

This soundscape clearly has natural sounds dominating the experience. There are few, if any, sounds that are considered cultural or noise.

Compare that soundscape to this:

New York City Soundscape

This is a considerably different soundscape from the first. What is different or the same? How do the sounds in the second soundscape layer upon each other? How do the sounds start, stop, overlap, raise and lower in volume?

Begin by using soundscape examples like the ones shared above with students. This is helpful because they are so clearly different and have easy to classify sounds. This is great for beginners. The soundscapes that your students work with may not have really noticeable differences, but learning to listen for the changing soundscapes provides practice in collecting data for evolving ecosystems.

What does a completed soundscape look like with these steps?

This soundscape project is a 30 second capture at an estuary in Huron, Ohio. The sound was captured in an old growth forest part of the estuary where students were hiking and discussing the environment around them.



So, how do we engage students in this process? What is the workflow?

In this project, we are asking students to create a listening activity that also pairs up visuals for the soundscape. They will go beyond just capturing the sounds. This project is scalable and can be created in Keynote with the use of Apple Maps!

Let's go through the steps.

Step One:

Capture your location with a simple screen shot from Apple Maps:


This is a satellite map screenshot of the Old Woman Creek Estuary in Huron, Ohio.
Old Woman Creek Estuary in Huron, Ohio

Step Two:

Download the attached sample Keynote slide deck or create your own template with a title slide giving location, author, and date information. Include a slide for adding the map screenshot. The reflection slide for I Hear, I Think, and I Wonder should follow the map slide. And, optionally, students can add other visuals of the area on a photo slide.

Step Three:

Have students record a 30 second (or longer) sound clip right within Keynote.


This image shows the Keynote slide with the map having a sound clip added by recording audio and the resulting sound clip.
Add audio!

Step Four:

Add notes on the next slide regarding what you are hearing, thinking, and wondering while listening to the audio file on the next slide. For additional support in guiding student listening reflection, consider asking the students to listen to the sound file multiple times before taking any notes. Also, encourage student pausing the audio to write reflection ideas.

Step Five:

Optional step includes adding photos of the location to the next slide.

Step Six:

Share that awesome soundscape! Export the file as a movie:

For support, visit the Apple Support page and read Save a copy of a Keynote presentation in another format.


Showing dropdown menu for exporting Keynote as a movie file.

There are various movie options for export. Choosing a lower resolution for the final video will allow for easier sharing.

How can your students explore the environment around around them? Where will they create their soundscapes?

This project can be kept as simple as the example from Old Woman Creek. Students can capture the map view with a 30 second sound clip and share it as a short video. Or, the listening experience can be expanded. Students can create a soundscape over time and listen for changes in an environment. Students can map out various points in a larger area. For example, the Old Woman Creek soundscape will provide different data at the north part of the estuary where the creek meets Lake Erie. Comparative slides in Keynote can be created to dig deeper into those differences.

This experience is wide open, and these videos could be shared on class social media like Instagram and YouTube. Partner classes comparing soundscapes for their areas can be set up. Possibilities are endless.

Let's get our students exploring their environmental sounds!

I would love to see and HEAR how this soundscape project can be used across grade levels to capture our environmental communities. If students can be taken outside to capture the school yard around them or even off campus to explore larger natural spaces, let's add another science data collection process for our students. Please share your student examples and let's grow a library of soundscapes from around the world.




1 reply

July 15, 2024

What a great activity idea! I wonder how students might create different biome soundscapes to go along with their studies in science! Thanks for sharing!

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