Sound Out Your City


New maps offer an interactive look at the soundscapes of 12 different cities. (Wired)

Chart your own “soundscape” and other geography adventures with Mission: Explore!

Teachers, scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Boston’s Emerald Necklace is apparent in this verdant soundscape.
The whole of Boston looks like an “Emerald Necklace” in this verdant soundscape. Green is nature, blue is human, red is transportation, yellow is music, and grey is construction.

Discussion Ideas
Go on a “soundwalk” of your school or neighborhood. Keep notes about what you hear, and how those sounds make you feel.

  • The “Chatty Maps” cartographers divided their soundscapes into five major categories: human sounds, music sounds, nature sounds, transportation sounds, and construction sounds. Can you identify sounds in each of the categories?
    • Human: shouting, laughing, sneezing, walking?
    • Music: singing, clapping, radio or other music device?
    • Nature: birdsong, leaves rustling, waves lapping, rain pouring, dogs barking?
    • Transportation: engines purring, horns honking, buses or metros humming?
    • Construction: jackhammers, forklift or other vehicle beeps, cranes or other equipment creaking?


  • One of the purposes of “Chatty Maps” is “to create what’s essentially a high-level emotional map” of an area. The cartographers associated “transportation” sounds, for example, with nervousness or agitation. How do your categorized sounds make you feel? Do students who reported the same sounds feel the same way about them?


  • What are some other ways you might want to classify soundscapes of your neighborhood? If you live in a very urban area, for instance, there might not be enough diversity in natural sound to classify. If you live in a very rural area, there may not be enough diversity in transportation sounds.
    • The “Chatty Maps” cartographers offer their own suggestions, which you might be able to apply to your own school or neighborhood.
      • Indoor sounds: home, office, church, entertainment venue?
      • Mechanical sounds: industrial equipment, alarms, phones ringing?
      • Vocal sounds: baby babble, conversations, singing, whistling?
      • Natural sounds: atmospheric sounds (such as thunder), wind-related sounds, animal sounds?
      • Classroom sounds: repeated words or phrases (you might hear these a lot in classes where students are learning a foreign language), shouting, laughing, mechanical sounds, silence, pencils scratching, keyboards tapping, music, conversations?


  • Dive deep into one category of sound, such as music or nature. Create a soundscape of your neighborhood based just on that category.
    • What type of music do you hear or listen to:
      • in the supermarket?
      • at a fast-food restaurant?
      • at a fancy restaurant?
      • in your room?
      • in a car or on the bus?
    • What type of natural sounds do you hear:
      • in a parking lot?
      • walking on the sidewalk?
      • riding in a car with the windows down? with the windows up?
      • in a park?
      • on the playground?


  • Create a soundscape of your own home. What sounds do you hear:
    • in the kitchen?
    • near the front door?
    • in your room?
    • near the bathroom?



Wired: ‘Chatty Maps’ Chart Your City’s Sounds from Street to Street

Chatty Maps

Nat Geo: Mission Explore: Go on a Geography Adventure!

4 thoughts on “Sound Out Your City

  1. Reblogged this on Brain Popcorn and commented:
    Another awesome art/sensory/science/geography activity from the folks at National Geographic that I just had to share with you. It also reminds me of some of the activities recommended by Erica Wheeler in her recent webinar “How to be a Sense of Place Sleuth” (

    Have you done sound mapping at your institution or school?

Leave a Reply