Film Club: ‘Sanctuaries of Silence’

Film Club: ‘Sanctuaries of Silence’

What roles do sound and silence play in our lives?

Sanctuaries of Silence” is a seven-minute 360-video that touches on themes of nature, listening and the power of silence. It profiles Gordon Hempton, an acoustic ecologist, as he travels from noisy city streets to the Hoh Rain Forest in western Washington State in search of quiet. He believes that silence — which he defines as the absence of noise from daily life — is crucial for humans’ well-being, and that it is on the verge of extinction.


1. Watch the short film above. While you watch, you might take notes using our Film Club Double-Entry Journal (PDF) to help you remember specific moments.

2. After watching, think about these questions:

• What moments in this film stood out for you? Why?

• Were there any surprises? Anything that challenged what you know — or thought you knew?

• What messages, emotions or ideas will you take away from this film? Why?

• What questions do you still have?

3. An additional challenge: What connections can you make between this film and your own life or experience? Why? Does this film remind you of anything else you’ve read or seen? If so, how and why?

4. Next, join the conversation by clicking on the comment button and posting in the box that opens on the right. (Students 13 and older are invited to comment, although teachers of younger students are welcome to post what their students have to say.)

5. After you have posted, try reading back to see what others have said, then respond to someone else by posting another comment. Use the “Reply” button or the @ symbol to address that student directly.

6. To learn more, read “Sanctuaries of Silence.” Adam Loften and Emmanuel Vaughan-Lee write:

Listening through a microphone taught Mr. Hempton to take things in with equal value, without judgment. We were struck by this approach, as it offered us the opportunity to be completely present in the landscape. When listening in this way, we were more connected to the space around us. We heard the intricacies of life — the creaking of trees, the cacophony of birdsong. We were attuned to nature in ways we had not experienced.

Our hope with this film is that viewers come away with a new perspective toward sound and the power of silence. The simple act of listening to the natural world can have a profound impact on our relationship to place and on ourselves by rooting us in a presence that we no longer take for granted.

And you can visit the film’s official website to find a full lesson plan, complete with conversation cards and listening exercises.



• See all the films in this series.

• Read our list of practical teaching ideas, along with responses from students and teachers, for how you can use these documentaries in the classroom.

• Our next Film Club will take place on Thursday, March 28.