How to improve acoustic conditions in schools
Classrooms can be noisy places. Studies have shown that the average sound level in preschools often exceeds 70 decibels and can reach hazardous levels of up to 85 decibels. And that’s problematic for a number of reasons.
First, noise affects a child’s ability to learn — particularly when they’re younger. Not only is it harder to concentrate when there’s a lot of background noise, but it can also be difficult to make out a teacher’s instructions. If they’re at an age when they’re still learning to speak, this can hinder their linguistic development.
Second, spending time in loud classrooms can cause attention and concentration disorders and lead to changes in social behaviour. It can also result in increased heart rate and blood pressure, and cause sleep loss — which can be serious problems for teachers, too.
So what can schools do to improve the acoustic conditions in their classrooms? Here are five measures…
1: Monitor noise levels
The first step is to measure the noise levels in different areas of the school. This can help to identify problem areas and establish which classrooms need the most urgent attention.
2: Keep groups small
Of course, the feasibility of this depends on the availability of teachers and assistants, but when children study in smaller groups they tend to make less noise. Studies have also shown that they demonstrate more initiative and are able to concentrate better.
3: Design classrooms with sound in mind
Some lessons or activities are naturally louder than others. When designing a school’s layout, this should be taken into consideration. By separating ‘quiet’ classrooms from areas where activities that generate noise take place (e.g. the canteen or sports hall), you reduce the risk of sound disturbances. Within multi-use areas, partitions can be used to divide up a single room.
4: Control background noise
Echoes, murmurs, and sounds from ventilation fans and projectors create background noise that raises the overall volume; this also distorts speech and makes learning difficult. With the right sound absorption systems, it’s possible to mitigate this.
5: Sound absorption measures
Traditional classrooms with high ceilings and hard surfaces tend to bounce sound around, which can be distracting for students. Adding absorbent materials to the floor, walls and ceilings can help to reduce this ‘reverberation time’ and have a positive impact on classroom learning.
IAC Acoustics Australia offers specialist noise control solutions for a number of applications, including music practice rooms and classrooms. Contact us to find out more.