Home in the Cave Teaching Activity

Imagine having to find your way around in the dark every night–without any lights to help you see. Most bats use echolocation to “see” in the dark. They locate objects (insects to catch or trees to avoid) by listening to echoes or sound waves bouncing back at them. Bats make high-pitched noises with their noses or mouths. The noises are so high pitched that we can’t hear them (like a dog whistle). These sounds bounce off objects around them and back to the bats—echoes. Bats have very large ears to help them trap these echoes. By “seeing” with these sounds, bats can catch insects in the air and can avoid flying into things.

Do you think you could find an insect in the dark just by listening? Our sense of hearing is not as well developed as a bat’s, but we still can sense location with hearing. To test your echolocation abilities, play this variation on “Marco Polo” called “Bat and Bug”:

With three or more people, blindfold one person. That person is the “bat.” Other people are either trees or bugs. The trees stand still, and the bugs get to move around. The bat calls out “bat,” and the others must respond by saying “tree” or “bug.” The bat has to try to catch a bug without running into a tree.

Is it easy to find your way around by sound? Would you rather “see” with your eyes or your ears?

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