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Echolocation Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Jennifer Lowery

Jennifer has taught elementary levels K-3 and has master's degrees in elementary education and curriculum/instruction and educational leadership.

Many animals in the wild are unable to rely only on their vision to move around and hunt. Discover the meaning of echolocation, and why animals use it to survive in nature.

Why do Animals Use Echolocation?

Take a minute to close your eyes, or turn the lights off wherever you are so that you are surrounded by mostly darkness. Now try to move around without bumping into something, or try to go get something to eat without making a mess. Seems impossible right? Luckily, we can turn lights on and use our eyes to walk around, avoid obstacles, or fix a snack when we are hungry. But many animals do not have that ability. They must use echolocation in order to survive.

What is Echolocation?

To determine the meaning of this compound word, let's break it into two parts. You are probably familiar with the word echo. An echo is produced when sound waves bounce off of an object and return to your ears. Many people see the concept of echos on television or cartoons when a person is high on a mountain and they shout 'Hellooooooo' and it sounds like someone is shouting back that same word. This is an echo.

Location is where something is placed or located. You may be located at a desk right now, or on the couch. Look around the room and notice objects that might be difficult for you to avoid if you are walking around without the ability to see. When we put the meaning of these words together, echolocation is when animals use sound and echoes to find the location of objects.

Sound waves travel from an object making a sound to the ear.
echo waves

Bats

Bats are nocturnal animals. This means they sleep during the day and are active at night. They hunt for food in total darkness. Therefore, echolocation is necessary for them to survive. Bats make noises from their throat, and these noises travel through the air. If the sound hits an insect or another food source, the sound bounces back like an echo. The bat receives the bounced back sound and knows that food is ahead! Because of this special characteristic, bats are able to feast on many insects at night time. If you are outside right at dusk, when the day is changing to night, you might even notice bats getting an early start on their night of hunting! Many people are scared of bats, but their use of echolocation to hunt insects is beneficial for humans!

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