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New Lesson Plan: The Value of Listening

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In his book "One Square Inch of Silence: One Man’s Search for Natural Silence in a Noisy World," acoustic ecologist Gordon Hempton wrote, “A quiet place is the think tank of the soul, the spawning ground of truth and beauty.” I love this quote. There is so much power to quietude. It enables us to learn how to reflect and listen—to each other, to ourselves, and to our natural world.

Hempton is the main character in our virtual reality film Sanctuaries of Silence. In this film, Hempton describes the impact, value, and power of silence on human beings. The film is set in the Hoh Rain Forest within Washington State’s Olympic National Park, one of the most ecologically diverse environments in the United States. It is also one of the quietest places in North America.

I’m excited to share a new lesson plan, The Value of Listening, as a companion to Sanctuaries of Silence. In this lesson, students learn about the field of acoustic ecology and explore the following themes: effects of modernization, noise pollution, and connection to place.

We’ve also created conversation cards! The cards contain quotes from Hempton and other thought leaders as well as reflective questions. They can be used as pre-film warm-ups to introduce the topics and themes, as catalysts for post-film discussions, as writing prompts for personal reflections or essays, and to spark ideas for action or class projects.

Here's one of my favorite conversation cards—a quote from Hempton and a prompt for contemplation and dialogue: “If you are going to listen, you have to be willing to change.” How might the act of listening lead to change? Describe a time in your life, or one you have witnessed, where this could be true.

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