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Unit Overview

Unit Overview

In this three-week curriculum, children explore sound:

Week 1: Listening to Sounds  
Listen, notice, and identify sounds.

Week 2: Comparing Sounds  
Change the volume (loud/soft) and pitch (high/low), of sounds.

Week 3: Sounds and Music  
Use music to explore sound.

Between 60 to 90 minutes of science exploration is offered throughout a day. The day is broken into four segments: 

Morning Circle (20–30 min.)
Read a story or watch a PEEP video (15–20 min.) 
Then, do a short, hands-on activity (5–10 min.)

Learning Centers (15–30 min.)  
Give children time for free exploration at 4–5 different learning centers.

Guided Activity (20–30 min.)
Guide children through a longer, hands-on activity.

Closing Circle (10–15 min.)
Get together and share the day’s discoveries.


Learning Goals

Learning Goals

Science Concepts

  • An action has to take place in order for a sound to occur.
  • Different objects make different sounds.
  • Sounds have a source. (A sound can be tracked to its source.)
  • A sound becomes louder when the force of the action creating the sound is increased (for example, when you hit a drum harder). A sound becomes softer, or quieter, when the force is decreased.
  • Sounds vary in different ways: by volume (loud or soft) and pitch (high or low).
  • Sound is caused by vibration.
  • Sounds change when they travel through a hollow object such as a tube.

Children will practice scientific skills as they learn about sound. They will:

  • Listen to, describe, and compare sounds.
  • Predict, investigate, and identify sounds, indoors and outdoors.
  • Identify and sort sounds that are the same and different.
  • Do simple experiments, talk about cause and effect, and share ideas.

Language and Literacy 


Children will hear and use words that:

  • describe sounds, like loud, soft, high, low (pitch), fast, slow, whisper, and vibrating.
  • tell how sounds are made, like tap, clap, stomp, scratch, knock, shake, and pluck.
  • help them practice scientific skills, like change, compare, describe, discover, identify, listen, notice, observe, predict, question, share, sort, and watch.

Print Awareness

Children will see their words written on charts. They’ll listen and “read” along as the words are read back to them.

Book Experiences

Children will listen to books about sound and explore books independently.

Emergent Writing

Children will draw and write about the sounds they make and hear.

Early Math 

Compare and Contrast 

Children will compare the volume (louder, loudest, softer, softest) and pitch (higher, lower) of different sounds. They will listen to and compare the tempo of different pieces of music (faster, slower).

Record and Discuss Information on Charts

Children will record predictions, and then their observations, on charts. They’ll compare and discuss.



Below is a list of all the materials you’ll need for the activities and learning centers in Explore Sound. For the specific materials you’ll need for each activity and learning center, see the individual entries in the curriculum.

  audio recorder (an mp3 player or smart phone with recording functions can be used)


  chart paper

  clipboard and pencil


  metal spoons (one for each child)

  2 alarm clocks or timers

  construction paper

  crayons, paint, or markers


  wax paper

  8 tall clear glasses of the same size

  different kinds of recorded music: quiet; dramatic and emotional, high-energy dance music, marching music, circus music, etc.

  different pictures of instruments as well as different types of music being played by musical groups (e.g., an orchestra, a pop singer, a jazz band, a rock ‘n’ roll group, a salsa band, country singers, and other musical groups from around the world). Other pictures: a stethoscope, earphones, diagrams of American Sign Language (ASL), showing a few simple examples, photos of people using their hands to sign in ASL.

  different tubes, including cardboard tubes from toilet paper, paper towels, and wrapping paper; mailing tubes

  flexible tubing, such as hoses from vacuum cleaners, shop vacs, or sump pumps. different types of containers, bottles, tubes, and pie pans made of plastic, cardboard, and aluminum that make interesting sounds when tapped and scraped

  craft sticks, rulers, chopsticks, and unsharpened pencils with erasers for drumming on different objects

  paint-stirrer stick (free from hardware store), or other similar stick—one for each child

  different plastic containers with lids (one for each child)

  6–8 of the same type of container with tightly fitting lids (for example: plastic vitamin bottles or yogurt containers)

  small objects to put inside containers (for example: dried beans, beads, paper clips, binder clips, pompoms, buttons, pencil-tip erasers, rubber bands, packing peanuts, cotton balls, tissue paper, etc.)

  plastic water or soda bottles (20-ounce bottles work well), with screw-on caps, labels removed (one for each child)

  rubber bands of the same length but different thicknesses

  bread pans, pie pans, uncovered shoeboxes or other open containers

  plastic containers and cups, plastic tubes, sponges, and/or other water-table toys

Videos and Games

Videos and Games

Videos: Peep Episodes

The following videos appear in the curriculum. See tips on active viewing with children.

Sounds Like (9:00)

Peep and Chirp get lost, but use a range of familiar—and annoying!—sounds to find their way home.

Give Me a Call (9:00)

Quack tries to track down an incredibly annoying sound.

Chirp, Chirp, Tweet, Tweet, Chirp (9:00)

Chirp is really good at recognizing other birds’ songs, but can she find one of her own?

The Sounds of Silence, Part I (9:00)

Quack is in a bit of a pickle; he’s decided not to talk until Chirp begs him to. (That could take a longgggggggg time!)

Hear Here (9:00)

Quack decides to give a concert—"An Afternoon With Quack"—but has trouble finding the proper venue.

Videos: Peep Live-Action

The following videos appear in the curriculum. Watching and discussing PEEP videos can help children become  interested in sound. The curriculum has children watch PEEP videos only after they have explored sound on their own. As a result, children can compare their experiences and discoveries with those made by other children and animated characters. It also helps them to think about what else they can do to explore sound.

Listening for Sounds (1:30)

The kids discover that there is sound all around them. They take a walk around the city to find sources of sound.

Tracking Down Sounds (1:30)

What's that sound? The kids are chasing down the source of a strange sound. Then they make some sounds of their own.

Sizes and Sounds (1:30)

The kids make percussion instruments and notice that different sized objects make different sounds.

Listening to Echos (1:30)

Shouting in the gym makes a very echo-ey sound. The kids listen to the sounds they make in other places.

Peep Online Games

Where's Quack?

In this game of Hide and Seek, Quack hides in different places. Different hiding places change the way Quack's voice sounds. Is he muffled, or maybe far away? Is he down a hole, or underwater?

Sounds Like Fun!

This game encourages kids to explore music. It allows them to mix and match sounds as they click on characters that represent different musical rhythms.



The book list for Explore Sound is divided into two groups: read-aloud books used in the curriculum and other books on sound that would be good additions to your Library Center.  See tips on reading aloud. 

Read-Aloud Books

The following books are used in the curriculum. 

  • Cox, Judy, My Family Plays MusicHoliday House, 2001. Everyone in this family loves different kinds of music, from rock ‘n’ roll to polkas.
  • Johnson, Angela, Violet’s MusicDial, 2004. Since she was a baby, Violet has always made music. Finally she find other people who love music as much as she does.
  • Manning, Maurie  J.,  Kitchen DanceClarion Books, 2008. A family has fun singing and dancing together in the kitchen.
  • Marsalis, Wynton, Squeak, Rumble, Whomp! Whomp! Whomp!: A Sonic Adventure. Candlewick Press, 2012. Join in with this rollicking, clanging, clapping tour of a busy neighborhood, and discover the sounds all around us. 
  • Pinkney, Brian, Max Found Two SticksAladdin, 1997. Max drums on anything he finds and imitates the sounds he hears in the neighborhood.
  • Rylant, Cynthia. Night in the CountrySimon & Schuster, 1986. While people dream of daytime things, a nighttime world of mysterious sounds comes alive.
  • Showers, Paul, The Listening WalkHarper Collins, 1993. (Also available in Spanish) A father and child go for a walk and listen to sounds they hear outside.
  • Singer, Marilyn, City LullabyClarion Books, 2007. Listen to the sounds of the city, from the jing-a-ling of the ice cream truck to the howling siren of a police car.
  • Waring, Geoff, Oscar and the Bat: A Book About Sound. Candlewick Press, 2009. Oscar is a curious kitten, full of questions about sound.

Additional Books (Optional)

Recommended books on sound that would be good additions to your Library Center.

  • Burleigh, Robert. Clang! Clang! Clang! Beep! Beep! Listen to the City. Simon & Schuster, 2009. From morning to night, a little boy experiences all the exciting sounds of the city.
  • Chapman, Susan. Too Much Noise in the Library. Upstart Books, 2010 The mayor wants quiet in the library, until he realizes that a busy library needs to be a little noisy.
  • Lawrence, Mary, What’s That Sound? Kane Press, 2002. (Also available in Spanish) A brother and sister listen, predict, ask questions, and explore as they learn about unfamiliar sounds in the country.  
  • Pfeffer, Wendy. Sounds All AroundHarperCollins, 1999. Find out about the sounds all around us, and discover how different animals hear.   
  • Rosinsky, Natalie M, Sound: Loud, Soft, High, and LowPicture Window Books, 2003. Discover the science of sound, from echoes and eardrums to vibrations and volume.
  • Smalls, Irene, Jonathan and His Mommy. Little Brown, 1994.A mother and child have fun walking around their neighborhood, taking "big giant steps and talk in loud giant voices."
  • Trumbauer, Lisa, All About SoundScholastic, 2004. Photos featuring children accompany this exploration of how sound is made, felt, and heard.  
  • Wheeler, Lisa, Jazz BabyHarcourt, 2007. Invite your children to move to the beat of the words as you read about a snazzy-jazzy baby and his family.  
  • Wilson, Karma, Bear Snores On. Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2001. Despite a fun and noisy party taking place in his cave, Bear snores on! Finally, he wakes up.
  • Wong, Janet, Buzz! Sandpiper, 2002. A child experiences the sights and sounds of morning--from a bee buzzing outside to the noise of the awakening household. 
Handouts for Parents

Handouts for Parents

In the first week of the Explore Sound curriculum, copy and distribute this letter to children’s parents or guardians. The activities suggested in the letter turn everyday situations into simple science explorations that families can enjoy together. It also provides book and Web site recommendations. During the Morning Circle, invite children to share their at-home science discoveries with the group.

Each letter is provided in English and Spanish:

Explore Sound with Your Child (PDF)

Explore el sonido con el nino (PDF)

For parents new to Peep, there’s also a handout with tips for:

Exploring Science with Children (PDF)

Exploremos las ciencias (PDF)

Educator Reflection

Educator Reflection

Explore Sound

As teachers, we grow by reflecting on our teaching experiences and using these reflections to inform and improve our instruction. The following questions may help you reflect on the successes, surprises, and challenges of the Explore Sound unit.  

  1. What was the most satisfying part of the Explore Sound unit for you and your students? Making different sounds on homemade “drums and scrapers”? A heightened awareness of all the sounds around you, both indoors and outdoors? Something else? What made it so satisfying?
  2. As you watched and listened to your children explore, what things surprised you? (For example, certain questions or observations about sound, unusual ways children used the materials, special things that fascinated them.)
  3. What activities might you change or extend the next time you use the Explore Sound unit? What would you keep the same? How could you build on your children’s particular interests and enthusiasm to make this an even richer science learning experience?
Educator Close-Up

Educator Close-Up

Jazmine reflects on what her children learned and what she learned during their exploration of sound.

I think the best thing for me during this exploration was the amount of noticing, thinking, and talking that happened for some of the kids. The students who were the most engaged were not necessarily those whose voices are usually the loudest during our class group time. But during this exploration, these kids’ minds were full of ideas and discoveries about making and listening to sounds, and they were bursting to share their thoughts. Some of my favorite moments were listening to Jai’lysa. She was excited about creating sounds in lots of inventive ways—for example, by shaking her head to make sounds with her beads, by holding up a piece of paper to the wall fan to listen to the sound it would make, and by combining different sounds.

At Circle Time, I handed out rhythm sticks, some smooth and some with ridges, and asked, “What sort of sound can you make with your rhythm sticks?”

The kids experimented. Jai’lysa stamped her feet, then tapped her sticks (stamp,
stamp, tap, tap). “It’s like music!” she exclaimed.

The other kids tried out Jai’lysa’s discovery.

“Does the sound of your feet sound like the sound of your rhythm sticks?” I asked.

“No, different.”

“Our feet make a big noise.”

“How do the rhythm sticks sound?”

“A little bit of noise.”

“What if we tap our sticks together really hard?” I asked.

Jai’lysa tapped her sticks together as she stamped her feet in place. “I can hear both sounds together!” she announced.

Luís is a student who joined our class a couple of months ago. He’s in the process of learning English and is just beginning to feel at home in our classroom. Our hands-on investigation of sounds has led to some breakthrough moments for him as well. He was one of the most innovative and focused explorers during Free Exploration, discovering lots of ways to make different sounds with the materials and inspiring other kids to join in.

Watching Luís come out of his shell makes me appreciate the special benefits discovery science can offer English language learners. Hands-on explorations give kids a level playing ground. ELL kids can demonstrate their ideas concretely, so limited English skills do not hamper their ability to participate and share. At the same time, our on-going discussions about what kids are hearing and doing and noticing involves lots of meaningful recycling of key words and phrases, and English language learners have the opportunity to hear and use these high-interest words repeatedly.

One day, I watched Luís and Shatoya with the flexible hose stretched between them, taking turns talking and listening. Luís was making what he called “dinosaur sounds,” and Shatoya was laughing because “it tickles my ears!”

“Can I listen to your voice?” I asked. Shatoya gave me her end of the tube so I could hear Luís’s dinosaur growl.

I held the end up to Luís’s ear and said, “Want to listen to your own voice?” Luís growled into tube again and laughed, “It tickles my ears.”

“What happens to your voice when you talk through the tube?” I asked Shatoya and Luís.

“It turns different,” said Shatoya.
“It sounds like a man,” said Luís. “Yeah, like a daddy,” agreed Shatoya.

I flip through the kids’ pictures and writing and my notes and photos from the past few weeks and realize how much energy this science exploration has generated in my class and what an amazing outpouring of ideas it has sparked. In many ways, I feel that we have just begun. The kids are continuing to discover sounds around them and invent new ways to create sounds using everyday objects. There is so much more content and language yet to be discovered! I think we will be exploring sound for at least another two weeks.

—Jazmine, preschool teacher

Prepare To Teach

Prepare To Teach


  • Use the Curriculum Planner to familiarize yourself with the full three-week curriculum. Click on the activities to access them online or print the planner for offline use.
  • Then roll up your sleeves and explore some of the same hands-on activities your children will try during the curriculum.
  • Review the Using Media sections for tips on reading books, watching videos, and playing online games together.

Hands-on Activities

When’s the last time you sat perfectly still and listened to the sounds around you? When did you last drum on boxes, pots, and empty food containers? Now’s your chance!

These hands-on activities will help you to:

  • explore different ways you can create sounds
  • make observations about many sounds in different environments

They will also help you to:

  • think about ways you can help your children get the most out of their sound explorations: vocabulary you might introduce, questions you might ask, and ways that children can show what they have learned
  • troubleshoot problems that children might have using the materials and any possible safety issues

Teacher Reflection 

As you explore, think about how to best introduce and adapt the activities for your students and your home.

  • Which activities are best to do with small groups of children?
  • How can children share what they have learned and discovered with other children?
  • What are some open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a yes or no answer) that will get children to focus on the sounds they hear?

What kind of help do you think children might need to become engaged in making and exploring these “rubber band guitars”? How might you provide opportunities for children to demonstrate their discoveries to others, using the materials? What are some words that will help children share their discoveries with others? 

Indoor Sounds

Your Body

  • Make sounds using just your body.
  • How many different sounds can you make with your fingers and hands? (Rub, clap, click, knock, etc.)
  • What’s the loudest sound you can make? The softest sound?
  • How many sounds can you make with just your feet, then with just your mouth.
  • How can you record all the different sounds that children will make?
  • As you make sounds with your mouth, put your hand on your throat to feel the vibrations. Which sounds cause your vocal cords to vibrate? Which do not? Why do you think that is?
  • How can you help children feel this vibration? How do you think children will react to the feeling of this vibration? How would they describe it?

Cardboard Tubes

  • Hold a cardboard tube up to your ear. What do you hear?
  • Move the tube away from your ear a little bit. What changes do you notice in the sounds you hear?
  • What happens if you cover the other end of the tube with your hand? Try rubbing or tapping the outside of the tube with your fingers.
  • Hold a small piece of paper over the end of the tube as you talk or sing into the other end. What do you feel?


  • Get a couple of hoses designed for vacuum cleaners or sump pumps.
  • Hold one end to your ear and whisper or hum into the other end. (Try it—it’s pretty impressive!)


  • Try tapping empty containers and things around the room with an unsharpened pencil.
  • Try running the side of the pencil over different surfaces, especially textured surfaces,. What words would you use to describe the sounds you hear? Which sounds are particularly interesting or surprising?

Shake and Listen

  • Get some empty containers with lids and a bunch of small objects: beads, pompoms, paper clips, rubber bands, erasers, packing peanuts—try lots of different things!
  • Put one or more objects in a container. Shake and listen. Can you imitate or describe the sound? How does the sound change as you put more or fewer objects in the container?
  • Try to make a loud sound, then a soft sound.

Rubber Band Guitars

  • Put rubber bands around a few open boxes and containers.
  • Use one hand to stretch a rubber band tighter as you are plucking it with the other. What words would you use to describe what you are doing?
  • Play around with different pitches. What’s the highest sound you can make? The lowest? Why do you think the pitches change? Can you make a loud sound and a soft sound that have the same pitch?

Outdoor Sounds

  1. On your way outside, take a Listening Walk through the school. What sounds do you hear? What do you think are the sources? Continue your Listening Walk outside. Where are some good places for your students to sit quietly and listen for sounds of nature? For traffic sounds? What different sounds do you hear if you go for a walk around the block?

    Which sounds might be interesting to record for kids to listen to?
  2. Pick up a stick (or bring a ruler or paint stirrer outside with you) and see what sounds you can make as you tap or drag the stick along different surfaces, such as fence railings, slatted benches, bumpy bricks, metal posts, etc. Do certain surfaces make similar sounds? Why do you think so? Try imitating the sounds. What words could you use to describe
    the sounds?

    How might you document what the children find out about sounds during your outdoor explorations? What words might you introduce to children to help them describe the sounds

Troubleshooting: What sort of guidelines would you want to establish with the kids for using the sticks safely and responsibly?

Using Media: Books

A few tips for reading aloud to your children:

  • Read the book several times before sharing it with children. Mark the places where you would like to pause to ask questions or explain unfamiliar words.
  • Talk about the cover. Point out the title, author, and illustrator. Look at and talk about the art.
  • Ask children to predict what might happen in the story.
  • Read slowly so children can understand and enjoy the rhythm of the words and explore the pictures.
  • Hold the book so that everyone can see it.
  • Add drama to your reading by using different voices and simple props. Don’t be afraid to be silly or dramatic.
  • After reading the story, ask some open-ended questions (questions that don’t have a yes or no answer) that will help children think about, remember, and discuss the story later.

Using Media: Videos

Help children think and talk about what they are watching by encouraging active viewing.

  • Before viewing, tell children something about the story to capture their interest and to introduce unfamiliar words and ideas.
  • While viewing, show children that you are engaged by laughing, singing, and reading the words on the screen aloud.
  • After viewing, ask open-ended questions, such as, How did Quack track down the sound?  How would you describe the sound that Chirp made? Can you think of some reasons Peep might have found that noise annoying?

Using Media: Online Games

Encourage children to think and talk about what they’re doing while they play the PEEP online science games.

  • Play a few rounds of the game on your own so you’re familiar with it.
  • Explain the goal of the game and demonstrate to children how to play. Narrate what you’re doing and thinking: Hmmm, I wonder where Quack is hiding. His voice isn’t very loud and he sounds like he’s far away. I’ll try clicking on the tree! No, he’s not hiding there. Next, I’ll try . . .   
  • Have children take a turn, guiding them through the steps, and offering encouragement: That was a good idea to try. Where else might he be hiding?
  • For the youngest children, you might guide their hands on the mouse and keyboard, ensuring they have success when playing the game. They’ll have fun, develop their motor coordination, and enjoy being part of the group. 
  • As children play on the own, ask open-ended questions to get them thinking: You found Quack! What was it about Quack’s voice made you think he was hiding there?

Almost all the PEEP games are self-leveling. If players answer a round without error, they are offered a harder level in the next round. If they do make an error on the way to success, they remain at the same difficulty level for the next round. The games keep children within their own comfort levels, nudging them to more challenging levels only when they are ready. 

Screen Time for Children

Research has shown that technology and interactive media can enhance early learning. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center state that "technology and interactive media are tools that can promote effective learning and development when they are used intentionally by early childhood educators.”  

This curriculum uses nine-minute animated PEEP episodes, one-and-a-half-minute live-action videos, and online science games as a springboard for discussion about science with children. All videos were vetted by early childhood education experts and are presented in the context of a lesson plan that promotes active viewing. 

After children have watched and discussed the videos as part of the curriculum, this media is made available to them in a learning center. Based on NAEYC recommendations, the Technology Center should only be available to children older than two years.