Teaching Physical Science with Children’s Literature: Secrets of Sound!

April Sayre's Book Secrets of Sound: Studying the Calls and Songs of Whales, Elephants, and Birds

“The satisfaction comes from knowing that I am constantly
in the world of discovery, where I am encouraged to use my
imagination, creativity, and intelligence for the purpose of
learning about life in all its incredible forms.” (pg. 23)

April Pulley Sayre, author and photographer of Secrets of sound: studying the calls and songs of whales, elephants, and birds,  has added  yet another exciting, informative book to the Scientists in the Field Series. Secrets of sound explores the work of acoustic biologists in three distinct habitats of whales, elephants, and birds.

Sayre introduces the reader to three scientists€”Christopher W. Clark, Katy Payne, and Bill Evans€”who have dedicated themselves to researching animal communication. This book reveals the scientists’ use of new technologies and secret military information to make exciting discoveries. In addition, Secrets of Sound demonstrates the role of scientific research in studying the calls and sound of animals and in preserving endangered animals. While celebrating the methods and challenges of lab and fieldwork, this book also highlights the satisfaction of results.

Curriculum Connections
Sound is one of the many topics within the field of Physical Science.  Secrets of Sound  takes the reader from Texas to Hawaii to Africa, revealing the scientific methods used in the work of three bioacousticians. The text can be a bit dense, but it is a great way to introduce the main ideas such as frequency, waves, wavelengths, and vibrations of animal sounds (5.2 a,c). The reader clearly views the process behind the observation and measurement of the data collected in all three studies (6.1 a,c,h). There are also various graphical representations included in the book (6.1 i). Additionally, the last page of the book includes a glossary of words such as “frequency,” “pitch,”and “hertz,” to name a few.

Additional Resources

  • Interactive Science Movie on Sound! In the movie, you'll find out how sound and ocean waves are similar, yet different, as you learn about different kinds of waves. See how air molecules, air pressure, pitch, and vibration all play a part in everything you hear. Plus, you'll be introduced to a cool mechanism designed to measure sound waves! Discover how fast sound can travel through mediums like air, water, and steel. And see how aquatic animals like whales use sound to communicate underwater!
  • Night-Migrating Bird Calls! Get instructions for building your own microphone! You can set up a night-flight call monitoring station at your home or at your school and then connect with others doing the same via the Oldbird Web site.

General Information

Book: Secrets of sound: studying the calls and songs of whales, elephants, and birds
Author & Photographer: April Pulley Sayre
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication Date: 2002
Pages: 63
Grade Range: 5-6
ISBN: 0-618-01514-0