Online school is a challenge. Each student has their own environment with its own acoustical challenges, whether it's their parents trying to conduct meetings, siblings and pets causing a ruckus in the background, or many other variables. The mute button became the acoustical solution for Zoom school. However, there is no mute button in real life. Wouldn't that be something? The acoustics of a learning environment still affects students' ability to focus on their lessons.
It is common for schools to be full of hard surfaces—tile floors, hard walls, plaster ceilings—that reverberate sound and decrease speech intelligibility. When students do not hear all the words, it makes it harder for them to understand. According to the Acoustical Society of America, this effect is amplified in students with hearing impairments or learning disabilities, young children who have not developed as large of vocabularies, or students that are not communicating in their first language. Not to mention, bad acoustics can put a strain on teachers’ voices and their ability to communicate a concept effectively.
When a sound hits a surface, it will either reflect, such as when low-level chatter becomes a distraction; transmit through a material, like when you can hear the Bill Nye theme song from the next classroom over; or it will absorb, which is ideal. The standard measurement for a material’s ability to control sound is the Noise Reduction Coefficient, which is on a scale of 0 to 1 where the higher the rating, the better sound absorption and the better students can learn.
Educational settings are dynamic environments; there are different spaces to meet different needs, and often rooms that perform multiple roles. Luckily, there are cost-effective solutions for each setting, whether it is a new build or updates.
Take It from the Top
If it is only possible to implement one acoustical improvement in a classroom, go for the ceiling. With a large surface area and a position out of harm's way, it will give one the most mileage. Our pick is the affordable and durable Rockfon Educational Standard, with up to .7 NRC, a Class A fire rating, plus up to 100% moisture and sag resistance. It will significantly help with your acoustical issues as well as a few of the non-acoustical variety. Its stone wool composition is GREENGUARD Gold certified for low chemical emissions, making the environment thankful as well.
The Classroom and Beyond
Learning is an ever-evolving process, and the rooms where it happens needs to evolve with it. Classrooms, media centers, and libraries, to name a few, are used for multiple purposes. Acoustical products, such as partitions, can be used to separate spaces and reconfigure rooms to give them the most versatility. Partitions can create a sound-controlled, break-out space for group projects, a reading nook in the library, or sections between test-takers. Kirei AKUART Stand By Me free-standing wall screens have up to .9 NRC and customizable canvas to let you create the design that will best inspire students and educators alike. If your vision has a few more corners, Kirei EchoPanel Platoon Partitions and Paling Partitions are ready for geometry class.
For larger classroom spaces, such as a university lecture hall, the Acoustical Society of America recommends having a refractive surface on the ceiling to carry the professor’s voice to the back of the room and installing acoustical panels on the side walls to absorb unnecessary reverberations. A simple and sleek design like the Kirei EchoPanel Wall Systems has up to .85 NRC and will make sure the back row of an 8 AM lecture has no trouble keeping up.
Whether filled with the squeak of sneakers or the clatter of plates—gyms and cafeterias are notoriously bad for sound control. These large spaces need acoustical coverage that is effective and economical for their copious surface area. Cardinal Acoustics wood fiber wall panels have up to .95 NRC and are abuse-resistant. Basketball players need not worry about an airball taking out a wall panel. You can customize the panels to match your school colors and then change your mind later. Cardinal Acoustics panels can be painted up to three times without affecting their efficiency. Lunchtime may be a little chaotic, and the JV basketball team may need to work on their aim, but we've got it all under control—at least for sound absorption.
Educational settings are where the future begins. It is a priority to make spaces best equipped for learning, and spaces designed to inspire—from a kindergarten classroom to a university lecture hall and everywhere in between.