Lion Dissections and Learning About Sound

I was recently browsing the PBS app when I came across a very cool looking series titled, “Inside Nature’s Giants.” As you can imagine, the episodes are a mixture of real dissection footage by some of the world’s top animal biologists and wild animals in their natural habitats putting their unusual physical features to use in ‘living’ color.

While the Great White Shark, Giant Squid, and Monster Python all appeared to be fascinating, I settled on “Big Cats” and was not disappointed. Immediately, real-life connections were starting to be drawn in my mind to my third and fifth graders sound energy curriculum.

Watch Big Cats on PBS. See more from Inside Nature’s Giants.

While the entire 48:00 episode is great, the first 12 minutes are most prevalent to sound. At minute 4:00 there is a good animation of how the lion extends their larynx using muscles that pull it deep into its chest … two ribs deep! Much different from the human voice box, a great personal connection for kids to make though! Then at 12:00 they actually pump air through the lion’s body to re-create the lion’s roar. While doing this, the scientist pulls down on the larynx and actually makes the dead lion roar even deeper! A must see to fully appreciate. Students watching will clearly see how stretching the length of the larynx deepens the growl, reinforcing connections to tuning forks, guitar strings, rubber band plucking or whatever else they might have explored previously in the classroom.

The time spent in between these highlights show animal scientists experimenting in the wild with previously recorded noises from lions and their prey to determine how the lions react to the sounds. This makes for a nice connection with kids about what kind of scientific studies are being done present day and shows science practice at work in the field.

Obviously, you will want to review the video for yourself to deem appropriateness… while there is not a copious amount of blood and guts some students may find the slicing and tugging at the lion carcass to be a little squeamish… On the other hand there will certainly be some kids who won’t take their eyes off the screen! Perfect for an indoor recess day or maybe at a computer or ipad station with some leading questions.

If you give this a try in your classroom, please leave a comment and let us all know how your students reacted!

About Sean Musselman

Teacher Dad and Burlington MA Schools K-5 Science and Social Studies Curriculum Coordinator. NSTA Professional Development facilitator and author of "Think Like a Scientist: Investigating Weather and Climate" NSTA Kids ebook.
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