Bad acoustics in your classroom?
Thursday 12 September 2019
Guest Blog from The Woolly Shepherd
For practical purposes the vast majority of nursery and early learning spaces are very unlikely to have carpeted floors and little in the way of soft furnishings.
As a result, these spaces tend to have reverberation times that are considerably longer than would be considered ideal, especially for children of this age. This is because reverberant rooms, where sound is free to be reflected numerous times from surface to surface, cause key elements of words to be lost or masked.
This is especially important as language acquisition for a large proportion of children is achieved somewhere between 5 and 7 years. Before this time, missing consonants in words would be highly problematic, as the children may lack the vocabulary to fill in the blank(s).
Preschool and younger primary school children are especially susceptible to the effects of poor acoustics since their language skills are still developing. As a result more schools and nurseries are using wool-based clouds to change the acoustics in classrooms where communication is compromised by high noise levels. By surveying the venue and measuring the reverberation the correct amount of wool-based clouds or panels can be established to overcome the challenge in problematic classrooms.
Placing acoustic absorbers on the ceilings or occasionally the walls of these spaces dramatically reduces the reverberation time and can greatly reduce the impact of sound focusing features such as vaulted ceilings. The net result is a calmer, quieter inclusive space that enables high quality teaching and learning for all of the occupants.
The Woolly Shepherd are an award-winning company who specialise in natural acoustics. In 2019 they were awarded the Sustainable Design Award from the Institute of Acoustics and with their woolly clouds they’re combatting the issue of noisy classrooms.
Tim Simmons, Director at The Woolly Shepherd, said, “We are getting regular enquiries from schools and nurseries who understand how their noisy environments are affecting the children and the benefits of our clouds.
“The Department for Education specifies that a new-build nursery school room should have a reverberation time of less than 0.6 seconds. Many of the nurseries that we visit have times much closer to 1.0s – 1.2s, which creates a very difficult environment for both children and staff. Generally, when we are approached by a school or nursery it is with the children in mind, however once our clouds are in place the staff continually comment on how much better their teaching environment is and how much easier it is to communicate with the children.”
Charlton Nursey in Bristol are using clouds at their sites in Flax Bourton and Winterstoke Road. Helen Nott, Director of Charlton Nursery commented, “Some of our children are permanent users of hearing aids. As such, they sometimes find busy classrooms and noisy environments difficult. The Woolly Shepherd clouds were a brilliant way to regulate the acoustics and address these challenges”.
The staff at both sites of Charlton nurseries reported a dramatic improvement for all the children in their learning environment.
Meet The Woolly Shepherd team at Childcare Expo Midlands and ask them how they can improve your classroom or setting.