Soundscape Ecology

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Posted 21 Mar 2012 in Uncategorized

Last summer I had the opportunity to organize ateliers for the NAREA Summer Conference at Asilomar. In my introduction (see below) I talked a little about a new field in science: soundscape ecology. The NY Times ran a story about current research this weekend:

My comments to introduce the ateliers, published in Innovations vol. 18, no. 3 Summer 2011:

“A few weeks ago, I was listening to “Science Friday”
on NPR and I heard a story about biologists, who had
created a new field called “soundscape ecology.” In
the past, biologists had focused on the vibrant sounds
made by a single healthy species. But they realized
that in order for a species to be healthy, the landscape
of sounds has to be healthy. There must be – and
I will use a term from Reggio Emilia – a “rich
normality” of sounds. They went on to explain how,
within these soundscapes, creatures learn to sing at
different frequencies, yet sing in relationship to each
other so they can be heard.
Yesterday, Anna gave us a metaphor of “The Wonder
of Learning” exhibit as interconnected archipelagos,
which offer a plurality of possibilities. Children
investigating the Malaguzzi International Center had
the idea to “give to each of the columns their own
originality as if they were a community of columns.”
If you look at the table of stones, which you brought
from your contexts, each one is unique. The stones

are dull, sparkly, smooth, gray, white or black. Each

one has its own personality, history and origin but,

as a whole and in relation to each other, the stones
become something else entirely, and create new
relationships and new possibilities.
I am using these examples as metaphors for the
premise of the ateliers in the context of Asilomar. In
April, Roxanne (Jacobus, California State Parks
Ranger) and I had a phone conference. She touched
on many aspects of the history and significance of
Asilomar, as she did earlier today. In particular, she
said, “Asilomar is about networking, exchanging and
sharing information. The history is of women coming
here to empower themselves and gain self-reliance
and autonomy, and the energy today is still about
improving ourselves but within a community…
through collaboration and team work.”
The experiences you will encounter in a moment are
organized to reflect the relationship between the
individual and the community, to elevate the importance of context in creating a sense of well being, and
to encourage deeper connections to materials as languages. As we enter into the ateliers today, we come
as ourselves with our own contexts and experiences.
What we will generate through our play, as Elena said,
is “a sense of belonging, pleasure and passion.”


  1. I think Lab is a great example of how schools need to be!

  2. Rachel Clement

    This is so interesting — stumbled onto your blog via the email about Louis’ climbing camp reference… so many interesting things to read, and such great points about the nature of how education NEEDS to be! I’m now looking into the soundscape science stuff for curriculum for next year… Thanks for the inspiration!!

    Rachel, (Louis’ science teacher)

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