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A open cardboard box with two cassette tapes taped with masking tape to the bottom of the box.

Have you ever tried looking with your ears? You might surprise yourself and be quite good at it.

Australian Curriculum links

  • Science > Science as a Human Endeavour > Foundation > ACSHE013
  • Science > Science Inquiry Skills > Foundation > ACSIS011
  • Science > Physical Sciences > Foundation > ACSSU005
  • Science > Physical Sciences > Year 1 > ACSSU020
  • Science > Physical Sciences > Year 4 > ACSSU076

You'll need

  • shoe box
  • 2 small wooden blocks
  • sticky tape
  • marble
  • friend
  • pencil
  • paper

Try this

  1. Sticky tape the wooden blocks to the bottom of the inside of the shoe box.
  2. Put the marble in the shoe box and close the lid.
  3. Give the box to a friend and ask him/her to gently shake the box and observe what he/she feels or hears.
  4. Ask your friend to guess what's inside the box.
  5. Tell your friend that there are blocks and marbles in the box.
  6. Tell your friend to determine where the wooden blocks are positioned by repeating step 3.
  7. Ask him/her to draw a map of the bottom of the box showing the location of the wooden blocks.
  8. Open the box to show your friend if his/her map was correct.

What's happening?

The position of the blocks can be found by using senses other than our sight. You can hear the marble moving around and bumping into the sides of the blocks. You can also feel the weight of the marble shifting as it moves to different parts of the box. Your brain puts this information together to help you work out where the blocks are without having to open the lid and look inside.

We have five main senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. Humans often rely on their sense of sight to work out the location of objects. However many animals use other senses to identify objects and to navigate their way around the environment. For example, some bats make high pitched sounds which bounce off objects before returning to their ears; this is called 'echolocation'. Bats use echolocation to figure out how far away they are from an identified object such as a moth. Humans use a similar technique called SONAR (SOund Navigation And Ranging) which uses computers and electrical equipment to find things like submarines and shipwrecks underwater. A pulse of sound is sent out and reflected back from an object. The time in which the sound takes to get back to the source helps to work out how far away the object is.

Real world links

Many animals have senses other than sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste. Catfish, sharks and platypuses can sense electric fields. They have electroreceptors which they use to navigate and find food. When platypuses swim under water they close their eyes and find their prey by detecting the tiny changing electric fields created by the moving muscles of animals like crayfish or worms. Other animals can sense magnetic fields. Loggerhead turtles use the Earth's magnetic field to navigate a 12,900 kilometre migration around the Atlantic Ocean. This migration can take up to ten years!