Today the Maple Street School in Hopkinton broke the loudness record set by the DJ Bakie school last week.   Bakie shattered the previous record (98dB) with an ear spliting 100!  Today, on their third and final attempt the 4-6th graders at Maple Street produced a whopping 101dB.  As this is the final school that I’ll be visiting this year they will be crowned  officially “The Loudest School in New Hampshire!”

Check out the screen shot of their actual MAX dB reading below!

Awesome Poster!

I found this awesome poster in the room I’m teaching at the DJ Bakie school in Kingston, NH.  I love it because it ties inton so many of the better listening skills and traits that Im teaching during my school residencies…especially #1 Make eye contact.

Remember, you aim your ears with your eyes!



Yesterday at the DJ Bakie school in Kingston the 3-5th graders shattered the long-held state loudness record posting an ear shattering...

100 dB!!!

The previous record of 98 dB had been held by two schools .  Over the last few months many attempts had been made to break it, but no one had come close. 

Yesterday about 200 students in Kingston made a run for it.  On their first attempt they got 91dB.  The second attempt was better at 95.  Then on their third and final try they got 100.  I was shocked. I honestly thought it was a malfunction with the decibel meter. So without telling anyone the score, I reset the meter, and asked them to try it again. Again they got 100!

Congrats Bakie!

Loudness in Meredith!

Yesterday I visited the Inter-lakes Elementary school in Meredith NH.  Probably the biggest group of students I’ve ever had.  Close to 300 kids.  They missed the quiet record by only one decibel…52.  To reach that level the principal, Dr. Kelly, turned off all the HVAC systems, closed the doors, and shut off all the lights, while I turned off all my tech stuff to cut volume in the room.  Imagine 300 kids now sitting in complete darkness being totally quiet together.  It was pretty cool!

Then they got fired up for the loud record.  First attempt was 96…Second 97…and the third tied the current record of 98!

After the show I was honored to speak with two Christa McAuliffe Fellows who both teach at Interlakes - Dan Reidy -'03, and Denise Read –‘09

Gorham, NH

This week I’m visiting the Edward Fenn School in Gorham NH. Yesterday, during the assembly, the kids just missed setting new loud and quiet records by one dB.  

Photo credit: Christopher Blair

Londonderry - North School

This week I’m at North School in Londonderry, NH!  Today we had a HUGE crowd of students for the Sound in Focus show.  Probably the biggest ever.  I was sure they were going to beat the loud record, currently held by Deerfield at 98 dB, but they came up shout at 97 dB.  They also just missed beating the quiet record at 52. dB.

BTW in case you’re wondering why the abbreviation for “decibels” is dB  ( With a capital letter on the B, but not d)  It’s because the decibel scale was named after Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. The dB scale is a logarithmic scale that goes up in powers of ten: every increase of 10dB on the scale is equivalent to a 10-fold increase in sound intensity. So the word “decibel” is a compound word meaning  "10-Bells”.  Since the syllable  “Bel”  is part of his name it is always capitalized. 

Quiet record broken AGAIN!

The kiddos at Sandown Central School sure can be quiet.  On Monday they recorded a new state record of 51dBs shattering the previous record of 54!  Also, during the week they made a map of the whole school using decibel meters.  The majority of their school is below 55dB (yellow areas)  which means they are definitely the quietest school I’ve visited so far.


NEW Quiet record 54 dB!

Today the Lamprey River school in Raymond set a new quiet record of 54 decibels.

The custodian shut down the heating and ventilation system and a big fan which gained back about 10 dB of noise.  On their second attempt they tied the McAuliffe School in Concord at 55.  Then on their final attempt I shut of all my equipment  (pa system, speakers, and the projector)  and they hit a new low of 54!

Congrats!  LRES

Parker-Varney School-Manchester

There’s a lot you can learn by listening to a school.

Last week the Sound in Focus trailer pulled up to the Parker Varney School in Manchester NH.  One of my goals in planning this program was to try to visit schools in different communities all across the state.  Through November and December I visited schools in rural communities. Over the last two weeks I’ve been in schools in two big cities. 

Parker -Varney is an older school built in 1970 that sits way atop a hill overlooking the city.  It’s a really cool place to have built a school.  It sits there like a hilltop fortress, and it’s built like one too. It reminded me of my old jr. high. Same basic layout: all concrete block construction with ceramic tile walls, and laminate tile floors. A good solid school for sure.

One of the things I’ve been learning about is the acoustic footprint of the building I’m in each week.  Check out these two Wordles I made from both  Parker Varney  (top)  and Christa McAuliffe schools. (bottom)

These graphics represent the most frequently heard sounds in the two schools. The larger the font-size of the word the more common the sound is.

In every school I’ve been to  TALKING and WALKING  have been the top two sounds. After that each school seems to have a wide variety of sounds.  Much of it has to do with the construction of the building. Let’s compare these two schools. 

Parker-Varney is an older school and its heating system made quite a racket everywhere you went.  It’s the third loudest sound.  Though at CM their newer system is nearly silent and does not show up on their Wordle. 

Both schools were getting hit with the same illness while I was there.  Lots of coughing and sneezing going on.

One thing I’ve noticed is hallway noise and how it affects learning in classrooms. 

In some schools DOOR noise (noise made byopening and closing) is common. In others it doesn’t even show up.    

Here’s a theory I’m kicking around:  Door noise is a direct result of the amount of hallway noise in the school.

Hallway noise is usually a result of a few different factors:  each classrooms location, the amount of foot traffic, building materials or even the school rules about travelling in the halls. 

Generally teachers will keep their classroom doors CLOSED if there is a lot of noise in the hallway. This is to keep their classroom free of outside noise and distractions. But ,if hallway noise is controlled (by harnessing a few of the above factors) classroom teachers  will generally                                           leave their doors OPEN. Most classroom teachers I’ve spoken to would prefer to leave the doors OPEN, but do not because of hall noise. Makes sense!

Here’s the kicker.  

While classrooms are protecting their quiet environments by keeping their doors closed, they are unknowingly significantly contributing to hallway noise by the constant opening and closing oftheir doors!  Think about it. 

Your students probably go in and out of that door a minimum of 75 times a day. More likely over a hundred. Each time they leave (for a million reasons) they open then close that door. Bathrooms, drinks, nurse’s office, music, art, PE, recess, etc.  That door is in constant motion.  Multiply that times the number of classrooms in your school and you get thousands of slamming doors all day long!   I know.  I’ve sat in the hallways and heard it myself.

 So...Want to quiet down your school environment?  First, get control of the hallways…then encourage your teachers to leave their doors OPEN!

Christa McAuliffe School -Concord , NH

This week I have the honor of being a guest at the Christa McAuliffe School in Concord, NH.  I’ve only been there for two days but so far I’ve learned what an extraordinary place this school truly is. 

I’ve been a teacher for over twenty years and have been in a lot of different buildings. Once you step into the door of a school, each one gives off a strong vibe of its personality.   Parents might not get this, but a veteran teacher will pick up on it immediately.  Every school has a different groove to it. Some are friendly and open, others are cold and indifferent. Most are somewhere in-between.  It certainly has something to do with the physical building itself, but more to do with the people (students, parents, and adults) that work there.

I had an old colleague once tell me that the worst thing a school district could ever do was to name a building after a person, because the building will never live up to the reputation of the individual. How so untrue this is in the case of the Christa McAuliffe School.  Maybe it’s the sprit of their namesake.  Maybe it me being overly dramatic.  But there is a force in this building that seeps from every brick and human cell of the place. They don’t just live up to their namesake…they TRULY MAKE HER PROUD. 

I have been planning on visiting this school for a long time.  As the Christa McAuliffe Fellow it was only fitting that the school named after her be on my list to visit. The fact that it's in my hometown in Concord, (and only a mile away) made it a no brainer.  I have been anticipating this residency for a long time. 

It’s a brand new building and it’s stunningly gorgeous! Walking through the halls for the first time it was instantly obvious how the building inspires creativity and learning. The flow of the building works effortlessly, and the contemporary use of mixed-media and technology throughout just makes you want to smile. Children will WANT to go to here everyday.  The staff is super friendly and are inspirational to the lucky children who go there. And their determination to teach is unwavering.  This was demonstrated to me almost immediately. 

 On Monday morning I pulled up with my trailer full of gear to load in for the assembly.  I was met at the door by the principal, Kristen Gallo.  We began loading my gear into the gym, when we suddenly realized that the vortex cannon was not going to fit through the gym door. So I brought it around to another door, dragging it along through the snow along Rumford street.  Must have been quite a site.  Mrs. Gallo met me at the the back door and let  me in.  This door was wider than the first but it still looked a bit skinny . So I pulled out my measuring tape and learned that it was still about a half-inch to narrow for the cannon to fit through.  RATS!   

I figured it was still worth a try. So with Mrs. Gallo egging me on I quickly disassembled the cannon into two separate pieces.  Now, the stand went through easily, but the big red cone would not.  Together with Mrs. Gallo pulling and me pushing, we nearly got it in…except for the last inch which jammed tight in the doorframe.  UGH!  I could tell by the look on her face that there was no way that this thing was NOT getting into the building.  Each time we pushed the door jam scraped the heck out of the paint, making a mess of the cannon. At this point I was ready to call it quits and abort the mission. But Mrs. Gallo was not quite as ready as I was.  She put her hands on her hips, took one look at the stuck cannon, and looked at me and said,  “Look. Can’t you just HORSE this thing!”

So we horsed it.  We jammed that sucker through.   We scraped the heck out of the door, made a mess of the cannon, and left a lot of red enamel paint chips on the floor.  It wasn’t easy, but we did it…somehow.  We got the cannon in. 

 The show went off without a hitch.  The children set a new record for quiet, at 55 dB, breaking the                                                           old record at New Boston Central School. And they screamed with joy when I fired the cannon off. We all had a blast! 

And when the kids left for the day I pulled my trailer back up to that same door and jammed the cannon back through a second time.   And you know what…I don’t care one bit. 

NEW quiet record! 58 dB. NEW BOSTON!

Today the students at New Boston Central School set a new record for quiet during their Sound in Focus assembly.  

58 decibels! On their first attempt they matched the ambient volume of the gym when empty.  So just imagine nearly 300 4-6th graders all sitting silently together for 10 seconds and not making a sound loud enough to trigger my decibel meter. (Which is sensitive down to .01 dB)  Pretty awesome New Boston!  

November residencies-Update

Well its been a great first month for Sound in Focus.  I hit the road and visited 6 different schools all over NH! Thank you for getting this project started and hosting me in your school!

(Special thanks go out to the custodians at Deerfield Elem. School who removed (and replaced) three doors so I could get the Vortex Cannon into the school!

It was a memorable series of visits.  I met some great educators, staff members, and wonderful children. And I saw some beautiful parts of NH that I’d never been to before. Driving over Lempster Mt Road in the fog with a trailer full of expensive scientific gear was an experience!  

Overall, the students seemed thrilled with the show.  I got lots of great feedback from them, and even got invited to a few birthday parties!

Right now, Deerfield Elementary School holds one decibel record outright,  and shares another with Abbot-Downing school  in Concord

The students at both schools were able to make 61 dB of silence, matching the ambient volume of the empty room.   

And Deerfield posted an ear shattering 98 bD of volume during the “HEY” challenge.  My ears  are still ringing!  

One day residencies -NOVEMBER

I’m excited to announce a series of one-day Sound in Focus visits to schools on my current wait list. Each day will feature a one-hour all school assembly, and an after-school teacher workshop. (details below)

There is NO COST to a school for these visits. FREE! 

The dates available are:

Monday,  Nov. 3       Wednesday,  Nov. 5

Monday,  Nov. 10      Wednesday,  Nov. 12

Book a date- THE RULES  :)    These dates are going to be booked first come-first served.  If you would like to book a date all you have to do is email me…BUT please make any and all arrangements with your school’s staff and admin BEFORE you contact me. In other words be ready to commit when you claim a date. I can not save a date for you. Once a date is gone I’ll send out an email with remaining dates available

Sound in Focus Assembly-Afternoon- The Sound in Focus assembly is an exciting interactive show that teaches students about the scientific principals of sound.  Using rarely seen (and mind-blowing) sound experiments, Sound in Focus is a unforgettable mix of  Mythbusters, Blue Man Group, and Bill Nye. Designed around the NH Science Frameworks, Common Core, and Next Generation Science Standards,  after seeing and hearing Sound in Focus your students will never listen the same.  

 The assembly is best suited for grades 2-6, and lasts about 60 minutes. The assembly can be held in any room that is large enough to seat the student population.  A gym or theater is preferred; a cafeteria will work as well. I will need access to the room 90 minutes before the start time to set up, and need two power outlets within 30 feet of the center of the room. The assembly should be scheduled to start at approx. 1PMould be scheduled for approx 1:30 PM

Teacher In-Service workshop- During this one-hour workshop for educators  I’ll share some of the listening-based research that I’ve done in my own classroom and share a few great lesson plans designed to help your students become better listeners.  Other questions and topics we’ll explore are : How technology is affecting students listening skills?  How to inspire students to listen better? And more. 

Vortex Cannon First Firing

Today I went up to LAD Welding and finished the Vortex Cannon with Bill Bodah.  Together we took a bunch of test shots. WOW does it have a lot of power. Bill shot a few rings right across Fisherville Road.  

Just goofing around I had Bill shoot me in the chest. You really feel the punch.  

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Sound goes BOOM!

Mobile Work Station

This is my main traveling work station that will carry all my gear from school to school.  During assemblies it will be the epi center of the show. Right now on board are the following.                                                                                                 

Odyssey Dual Table DJ Work Station, Onkyo 200W amp/receiver, Epson x17 LCD projector, Shure Wireless mic receiver,Pasco Sine Wave Generator, Pasco Mechanical Wave Driver Wave, Mac Book Pro, Ipad 2, Home Built Non-Newtonian Fluid Experiment, HSS Hypersonic Speaker, Logitech  1080P  Live camera  

Vortex Cannons- WET PAINT


Vortex cannons!

Exciting news!  I got a call from Bill Bodah at LAD Welding and Fabrication this week.

The main cylinders for the Vortex Cannons have been built, and should be painted soon.  These bad-boys are HUGE

Technology woes

I’ve spent the last week or so working and debugging the technology for the all- school assembly. Namely, the live-camera/ projection system I’m designing. 

Some of the experiments I’ll be displaying are a bit small, and I need to be able to show them to a large audience. It all seemed easy (in my head)  but trying to get cameras to speak to projectors turned out to me more complex than I’d imagined

 One of those weeks where I ask “What have I got myself into?”  At any rate, after many calls to Apple and Epson customer service, and a few days of tinkering I  finally got it working. 

A special trip today.

Thank you Christa for all that you have given. 

photo 1

Passive Speaker

On my Teacher Lesson Plan page, I posted a great lesson where students learn to make passive speakers that boost the volume of an iPhone.  Today I made a passive speaker out of leftover PVC pipes.  It took about 10 minutes and raised the volume of the iPhone 10 Db.

Vortex Cannon part 2

My driveway is starting to look like a playground!  I spent most of today attempting to cut perfect circles out of plywood. Not as easy as it sounds. 

 These “rings” will become the rear membrane, and front apertures, for the vortex cannon.  (Here’s a link that shows what a vortex cannon is

The two rings below will be mounted on the front of the cannon and will create a 20-inch diameter smoke ring!

image 2

Tubulum done!

This morning I finished the Tubulum. Its a full 2 1/2 octave pentatonic ( Blues) scale with 20 notes.  It still needs a bit of tweaking,  i.e. spacing the tubes out,  painting, and labeling the notes etc.  I’ll post some video of it soon.

Vortex Cannon

So I initially imagined I was going to build the Vortex Cannon out of wood…but I had this idea that it would work better and be much lighter, if it were made out of  metal.  So today I visited LAD Welding in Concord NH.  This place is an awesome shop that does fantastic metal work and custom steel fabrication.  The owner there, Bill Bodah, really loved the Sound in Focus project and decided  to build TWO of them!  One for Sound in Focus, and another for his custom motorcycle parts company Web Boards.

Here’s a shot of the rear flange, 36 inches of rolled steel.  This thing is gonna be HUGE!

I should have a contest to see who can come up with a name for this monster!

More notes

More progress on the Tubulum today!

Tubulum update

Tubulum project update!

Day two -TUBULUM

So today I begin building the most difficult part of the Sound in Focus program, the Tubulum.  What's a Tubulum?  It’s an instrument that is made out of different lengths of PVC tubing.  It was made popular by Blue Man Group.

Mine is not going to be this complicated, but the scientific principals of it will be the same.

Of course you can’t just buy one of these…you have to build one!.  I’ve done tons of research on how to build a Tubulum online, and although it a pretty simple instrument in function, building one is very complicated.  A lot of the process will be "experimental improvisation."  I’ve decided to build it so it will be portable and lightweight with about 12 notes (E pentatonic scale, with a few chromatic notes added)

First stop? HOME DEPOT!  Everything I need can be found there in the plumbing department. Unfortunately they had a very low stock of PVC pipes when I went this morning.  I need about 80 feet of tubes.  They only had three pipes of 1.5 inches, 30 total. So I bought them all.


Then I bought every 90 degree fitting they had, 22 of them, and a few straight fittings too.


As a building platform I’m going to use an old media cart that Maple Street School gave me.  The tubes will be mounted around the side of the cart with the open playing area at the top. 


© Mike Alberici 2014