Karen Fisher Favret
Spatial Temporal Earth and École Étoile filante
Our project has launched! We inaugurated the Mon Paysage Sonore/My Soundscape project at École Étoile filante on May 20th, 2016 with a sound-experiment workshop involving twenty students from grades 1 and 2. Students each made their own noise-producing device using materials ranging from straws and toilet paper tubes to rubber-bands and popsicle sticks. After students put batteries and data cards into the recorders, each student got to make their own sound for the new SM 4 recorders from Wildlife Acoustics. Next, recorders were placed outside windows of the school, behind metal grids facing the playground in two different directions for our first week of recording.
Using the Songscope software, SongScapes from both recorders were created for the first week of data on a laptop dedicated by the school for the project. We created a prototype news letter for the project, which will be produced in both French and English. Our project team gained two volunteer naturalists. One studies bats for her dissertation research, and she will lead bat walks later in the summer. Our second new volunteer led a group of kids from our first partner school, École Charles LeMoyne, to a spot in the woods where baby owls recently fledged to do a sound experiment… do the bird songs around us change when everyone is silent for one or two minutes before parading past the recorders?
In our first month of recording, we have now recorded at several locations around two schools in Montreal, in two very different neighbourhoods. École Étoile filante is located in a neighbourhood filled with detached duplexes on tree-lined streets, across the street from a large city park. Our partner school is in a denser neighbourhood where freight trains pass by just across the street many times a day. We also recorded on a field-trip in the woods of Parc Angrignon, and in a backyard patch of flowers where bees were actively pollinating. Our dedicated laptop is located in the school library, where students can stop to watch the SongScapes evolving for each location.
Because we are doing this project with elementary school students, we are adapting everything from our deployment strategy to our lesson plans as we go. Students have begun creating their own drawings illustrating Biophony, Geophony and Anthrophony, all documenting the project in their own way. This summer, we will inaugurate our bat-detector and hydrophone during activities open to students and families from both schools. We are also testing various mounting configurations for the recorders, because we need the locations to be safe for students. Since the new SM 4 can run on our rechargeable D cell batteries for over a week, we have eliminated concerns over needing to have external batteries in the school. Now it is possible to mount the recorders outside windows, preferred by educators over letting kids on the roof. By the fall, we aim to have identified our "permanent" listening location for the school. Stay tuned!
Our major logistical goal for starting the first phase of this project was to identify a recording location where students could take responsibility for maintaining the recorders, in a good recording location with both minimal noise from generators and minimal concerns for overhearing conversations. The window locations on the first floor are ideal for convenience and safety of students, but less than ideal for minimizing noise and staff concerns. The library window location currently under consideration requires new hardware to attach the recorder to the masonry of the school, and a plan to prevent batteries from being dropped from the third story. The roof location originally proposed led to an extensive process involving the school board to gain access, and while we currently have one SM 4 on the roof for comparison to the first floor window, no students can be involved in setting up or maintaining the recorders here.
However, the delay in finding the "permanent" recording location for the school has led to a variety of experiments for recorder locations. The recorders have been fairly successful between the first story gym window and the protective metal grid outside, facing the playground. One recorder was tested suspended from wire shelving in the indoor garden just inside an open window for a week at our partner school. It was also taken on a field-trip to the woods, and placed by students about 50 yards away from where they were playing. They performed a miniature sound experiment, maintaining silence for a full minute before going to retrieve the recorder, to see if we can identify changes in the bird-song. The naturalist leading the activity is an experienced birder and educator. She teaches kids to distinguish five different types of bird calls on nature walks, and generally encourages greater understanding of how natural systems work all around us. We now have on recorder on a third story roof of École Étoile filante, where both downtown and the St Lawrence are in view, but it is subject to quite a bit of wind, and not accessible to the students. We tested one new SM 4 was tested alongside an SM 3 and SM 2 from Spatial Temporal Earth. The SM4 runs much longer on one set of batteries compared to the others, and we will compare the data from the three types of recorders for a thunderstorm that passed through during the test.
So far, the major impact we have had is in creating a general awareness at the school about the existence of soundscapes, and the three categories of sound, Biophony, Geophony, and Anthrophony. I am collaborating with a professional translator on the educational and outreach materials in french, a professor at McGill University on the extension and distribution of our citizen science efforts at the school, a student completing her dissertation on bat conservation in Quebec, and a naturalist from the Friends of Mont Royal. CalculQuebec, the Quebec arm of Compute Canada, is currently considering hosting our data, and possibly building an interface for schools to share their data, after a staff member found out about our project on your website and proposed it to her managers.
Students are starting to discover soundscapes with your recorders! We are forming a strong team, including several native French speakers to help translate, people familiar with local wildlife, and educators. Over the summer we will continue recording, and offer a chance for families from both schools involved so far the chance to come and try out the hydrophone and bat detector. We will also work on the curriculum to prepare for the fall. We plan to introduce all six classes at Étoile filante to the project, and begin annotating the data recorded with small groups of students, who will decide on their own projects to pursue.
We had a small issue at the beginning when we put the recorders in the gym windows just a half story above the playground, because although the teachers knew about the project, the daycare workers did not, and some were afraid the recorders were put there to listen to them. I went to talk to the director of the Service de garde, which takes care of the students before school, at lunch, and after school, and explained that we were listening to the birds, thunder, and traffic outside, and then put up a small sign, with drawings defining Biophony, Geophony, and Anthrophony (Biophonie, Géophonie, and Anthrophonie in French), after which everyone understood. Next time, we will prepare a little explanation sign in a sheet protector to post with the recorders and explain the science when we deploy the recorders.
This is a more general problem with using first floor windows in areas where people often talk (or in the case of kids, yell at the recorder for fun). For this reason, I am focussing on finding a way to mount the recorders in the third floor library window, which would allow the kids to change the batteries and data cards, but have less of a chance of recording intelligible speech. It seems unlikely that we can get permission to have kids on the roof on a regular basis, and this would be a problem at every school in the project. An extendable arm from the window seems like a possibility. The kids are very excited about being part of the project, and I think it is really important to find a way that would work for most schools, and limit any needless risk. Exploring the different mounting options is on ongoing process we hope to complete before school begins in the fall.
Our deployment of the "permanent" SM4 and our Soundwalks with the Echometer Touches and "roving" SM4 have begun! Students helped select a tree-mounted site in front of the school to place the "permanent" recorder, and collaborated to pick a kid-friendly height so that even the first-graders can help change batteries and data cards. We are making full use of the cabling option in this deployment location. In spite of being located across from a busy city park, and just a city block away from a major intersection, there is no evidence of tampering so far.
However, students do make it a point drop by and inspect the recorder, and sometimes groups of kids conspire to make special types of noise when they are near the recorder. Everyone is having fun learning to operate both the recorder and the padlock. Groups of students also enjoy conducting distance-from-the-recorder soundtests using disposable pie-tins. As evidence of their creative streak, the first-graders chose to simplify the soundtest, leaving behind the chop-sticks I provided as strikers, and using their heads instead…
We gathered for our first batwalk with the Echometer Touches on July 18, 2016 with a local bat expert, Julie, who is working on her PhD nearby. She introduced us to the basics before we left the school to walk around the neighbourhood recording bats. After the walk, we "loaned out" the two ET's to walk participants for the remainder of the summer, and we are now gathering the data from quite a few locations in Quebec that got sampled by our volunteers over the summer.
We began our series of Wednesday afternoon Soundwalks on September 28th, 2016, starting out by letting the students make noise for the permanent recorder, and moving on to illustrating our Core Concept: Biophony, Geophony, and Anthrophony, before coming up with french translations for: Soundwalk (Le marche des sons), Sound-signals (Signaux sonores), and Sound-markers (Marquers snores) that we hope to incorporate into a french wikipedia page that links to the Soundwalk page in english. Younger students also provided illustrations that led me to add "Imagineaphony" to the lexicon, as they like to illustrate imaginary animals, with made-up sounds. They also surprised me with their lists of sound signals. I was expecting the lists to say "fire truck siren", or "person yelling", but instead got "whoo-whoo" and "hi hi hi" (in french the latter sounds like "hee hee hee"). In fact, they easily illustrated all four of the core values of the school in their approach to the soundwalk: Autonomy: Kids who had already done the soundtest, and enjoyed it, came back and rounded up other kids to show them how to do it.
Collaboration: The kids stood near the playground, collaborating on what to write down, and how to spell out sounds.
Creativity: Kids illustrated the concept of sound markers, or the sounds that are typical of a place and make it what it is, by making rubbings of the tree bark on the favourite climbing tree in front of the school
Openness: Kids readily accepted the ides of others about how to approach the project. They had their own discussion of how to translate "Soundwalk" into french, and decided on "Le marche des sons".
Our major logistical goal was to select our recording location where students could take responsibility for maintaining the recorders while minimizing concerns about overhearing conversations. The students helped select a tree in front of the school, and using both the pad-lock and cabling options led to a successful deployment over the summer. We began rotating both the "roving" SM4 and both ET"s to families to gather data. We now have data!
Students are becoming familiar with Biophony, Geophony, and Anthrophony/ Biophonie, Géophonie, et Anthtophonie, and teaching their parents, too. CalculQuebec, the Quebec arm of Compute Canada, has asked us to outline our needs for hosting the data, and we are preparing to have a meeting to discuss the collaboration further. École Étoile filante is continuing to support the project, allowing time for an introduction at the General Assembly at the beginning of the year, and including us in a project-based afternoon opportunity to consolidate English skills, which allows me to run the project as a bilingual activity instead of the otherwise mandated French-only approach. We aim to have the older students provide a french translation/version of the Wikipedia "Soundwalk" page soon.
The roving recorder also participated in a pilot study for comparing traditional (insect trap-based) and bioacoustical data for comparing biodiversity between sites in the Quebec forest. It was located near a stream and a small cabin, a short distance from the insect trap, and students will get to see both the insect and bioacousticsl data from this site.
Students are now recording permanent soundscapes of the areas around their school, homes, and cottages in Quebec. We gathered data almost continuously last summer, which will provide the basis for our first soundscape project. We plan to post weekly soundscapes in the hallway of the school, one week at a time, with examples of the sounds that students pick to annotate from each period in the hallway as our near-term project objective. We have both a closed-Group Mon Paysage Sonore and an open Page Mon Paysage Sonore My Soundscape on Facebook, and are working on the website as we prepare for the meeting with Calcul Quebec.
This quarter, we took a poster describing our project to the Canada"s Arctic Biodiversity: The next 150 years Symposium at the Canadian Museum of Nature. With our presenters, from grades 1 and 2 at École Étoile filante, we made several connections with researchers who agreed to take our project to schools in the Arctic directly. Kullik Elementary School, our first Arctic Partner school, is in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. The students at École Étoile filante are now engaged packing up their SM4 recorder for delivery by staff members of Polar Knowledge Canada in April. We were also invited to present in the Soundscapes in the Anthropocene at the upcoming Urban Wildlife Conference in San Diego! We held Soundwalks, did sound experiments, and started learning to navigate our sound recordings in the Kaleidoscope software. Students were excited that we could not only hear the dawn chorus from our Mon Passage Sonore/My Soundscape Tree, but also had a resident cicada. We learned what sirens and power drills look like on a spectrogram. And both the teachers of the second cycle (grades 3-4) picked our project for the final class projects. Students have identified and chosen from over 20 different projects, which they will now complete in groups of three or four students between now and the end of the year.
Our project is now officially bilingual, being taught in French and English at the school depending on when the activities are held (during or after school). We will soon make it trilingual when our first Arctic partner joins us. Students in grades 1 and 2 participate in the project as part of the English Club on Wednesday afternoons, while students in grades 3 and 4 are starting their own projects, ranging from monitoring the sound levels in the hallways of the school to staging an event including the "Guess that Sound" game for the entire school at the end of the year. We have now had our second recorder, destined for the Arctic, in the backyards or on the roof of five different families at the school, allowing us to start looking at how soundscapes vary between the school and the neighbourhoods where we live. Students are now able to download Kaleidoscope Viewer at home, which allows families to become much more involved in the project. People are digging out sounds they recorded on their iPhones on summer vacation, using Zamzar, and kids are presenting them in class. At the Arctic Symposium, we were asked by the Chief Biodiversity Scientist of Parks Canada to send a project description, which was translated into french by a volunteer professional translator parent. It also became apparent that we need a new character to represent Biophony, as there are no frogs in the Arctic. We held a vote for various logo combinations, and the Owl ended up beating the frog, chicken and geese in V formation by a margin.
Our major goals were to find our partner school, define our strategy for getting kids to work on the data, and distill the themes to hit while teaching. With the help of the Arctic Symposium participants, we now have a connection to our first Arctic partner school, and we are in the process of making sure we have everything they need to start the project. Students are working on the data using kaleidoscope, which is well tailored for them to find and save out interesting parts of the spectrograms and sound record. We came up with two basic sets of terms to use. One set characterizes sounds by their source, Biophony- Living organisms, Geophony- Physical forces, Anthrophony- Human Activities. The second set describes how the sounds act in the soundscape: Sound Markers- tell you where you are; Sound Signals- communicate something; Sound Disrupters- interrupt the soundscape of that place and time; and Sound Potentials- wait their turn to make noise (term prompted by squirrels seen but not heard on a soundwalk we held).
Students are becoming familiar with their soundscape, and are becoming aware of the changes over different timescales. They especially enjoyed hearing the start of the dawn chorus from the summer recordings, "catching" cars speeding way too fast, hearing themselves sing on the recordings,and trying to duplicate the spectrogram of sirens we recorded in front of the school. Polar Knowledge Canada is building a new High Arctic Research Station in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, and one researcher there has just connected us to Kullick Elementary School. We are packing up supplies for our new partners so that they can begin recording along with us. Since transportation to the Arctic is complicated, we are really lucky to have this particular site as our first partner school because Polar Knowledge Canada will hand-deliver the supplies for us from Ottawa, and can likely help the community there if they run into technological glitches. It will also allow us to send additional supplies to our partner school in the coming months. Given it is truly in the High Arctic, we are going to have to supply them with a cabled microphone to allow them to record in the extreme temperatures occurring most of the year there.
Near term, we are trying to anticipate the challenges for a new teacher to launch the Mon Passage program and the recorder successfully at her school in the High Arctic. We will now have a trilingual project to manage, so will be working on getting our classroom materials together. Our next major challenge is handling the data. We have filled our first 8 TB hard drive, and now have a partner school as well. This will shape our upcoming discussions with Calcul Quebec.
In the final quarter of our Phase 1 demonstration year, we delivered the Arctic recorder to Ottawa for transport to our first partner school, Kullick Ilikhakvik in Cambridge Bay, Nunavut. Polar Knowledge Canada shipped the recorder for us, and showed interest in continuing to support the project when their office relocates there. We presented our now trilingual project at the Soundscapes in the Anthropocene session of the Urban Wildlife Conference in San Diego in early June. In mid-June, Étoile filante students in Grades 3 and 4 presented their final Projects. Students brainstormed 18 different sound projects, ranging from "name that sound" quizzes to comparing noise levels in different parts of the school or around town, and then presented their projects. On the last day of school we removed Étoile filante's recorder from its tree just before it was cut down, and that concluded our first year.
Students in the second cycle (Grades 3-4) worked hard on their final projects, making recordings inside and outside their school using Song Sleuth on school iPads or their parent's iPhones. They presented their work at the end of June, and had an impressive response from their peers as they led quiz shows, invented and recorded new instruments, and documented levels of sound in different venues of the school at different times.
Students at Étoile filante wrote welcome notes to the kids in the Arctic, either in French which was translated by parents, or during their English class. Our partner school in the Arctic received their SM4 recorder with the notes, and planned a trip to make recordings outside the town but were stymied by bad weather, (snow storms that lasted into early June). They are currently assessing where they can place their recorder near the school with least risk of theft, and planning for the fall term.
At the end of the year, the Parent's Foundation purchased two iPads for our project. We found BigGrips protectors that allow the Echo Meter Touch microphones to be used effectively so that kids can safely handle the iPads during nighttime BatWalks as well as SoundWalks.
During the end of the year party for the school, students invented a new game, trying to get Song Sleuth to think they were ducks, chickadees, or seagulls. The are constantly finding new ways to use the spectrograms, and thinking in new ways about the sounds around them.
Our major goal is to create and distribute tools for hands-on projects connected to observing the soundscapes students inhabit. We aim to increase scientific literacy by creating citizen scientists who: 1) actively and quantitatively observe their own environ- ment; 2) know how interpret and use their observations; and 3) have a scientific context to integrate additional data into to better understand the changing world around them- selves and their communities.
To reflect the now trilingual components of our partnership between Montreal and Cambridge Bay, we have proposed to move forward as the NIPI Project, (Nature, Investigation Plus Integration). Nipi is the Innuinaqtun word for sound, noise, and voices. The same acronym works for Projet NIPI in french (La nature, l'investigation plus l'integration). École Étoile filante will continue to call their section of the project Mon Passage Sonore, and Ilikhakvik will pick it's own name in the fall.
The two iPads that Étoile filante's parent-foundation bought will be used in a variety of activities documenting the biodiversity and environment around the school during and after the major re-construction of the school's founda- tion and yard. We plan to use Song Sleuth as a major part of this. Since the construction project led to the removal of the Mon paysage sonore tree, we will be relocating the recorder in the fall. We are hoping the new location will be in the school garden that we are starting, and that we can document the changes as the garden matures and we in- vestigate different strategies to increase biodiversity by providing microhabitats in our garden.
The impact of our project in the scientific community now extends from the Arctic research community that helped match us with our Arctic partner school to the Urban Wildlife Community. Researchers from zoos, the National Park Service, and regional and local parks authorities presented work on soundscapes during the International Urban Wildlife conference in San Diego, and response to our project was very positive. We have been contacted by the Sonoma Ecology Institute, which is working with Bernie Krause on outreach to 6th graders. We are participating in gathering soundscapes during the eclipse on August 21, 2017, including daytime Bat recordings suggested by the Urban Soundscapes session coordinator Han Li, from UNC. We have made contact with a family from Iqaluit Nunavut, that is familiar with the french school there and plan to see if they would be interest in partnering with one of the schools in Montreal that have expressed interest in participating on our project.
Now that we have completed our pilot year, we are working toward fully launching Project NIPI with the High Arctic SM4 recording simultaneously with the Montréal SM4. Calcul Quebec is interested in supporting the project. We are testing various strategies for including bats in our recordings, including a backyard demo-project setting up an iPad with an Echo Meter Touch next to our backyard SM3. This real-time stamping project allows us to start looking at how bat activity fits in the soundscape, but requires vigilance to make sure that the iPads do not end up in a cloudburst! We also tested using Stand Up Paddle (SUP) boards with the hydrophone, to develop a protocol for in- dividual students to perform their own hydrophone transects. To insure that we provide connections to STEM goals in the educational community, we are developing a curriculum with hands on experiments that demonstrate the science of sound for all the elementary age groups so that new teachers coming on board have a path to follow. We aim to expand the project by the end of this year to include two new partners, so that we can reach out to more new citizen scientists.
We would like to acknowledge all the students, parents, teachers, and administrators at Étoile filante and Ilikhakvik who are participating in our new project. This project would not have been possible without the support of the Wildlife Acoustics Scientific Product Grant, and we are supremely grateful for this support. The SM4 recorders, hydrophone, and Echo Meter Touches are providing a new generation of citizen sci- entists with the tools to better understand their world.