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!

© Mike Alberici 2014