Noise map

By Ana Belén Yuste

Noise is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the second biggest environmental problem in Europe, after air pollution by particles. Its impact on health is proven, causing discomfort, stress, sleep problems, impaired cognitive abilities and even cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. In this lesson plan, students will learn that sound is a wave and behaves like one. They will also know that if the sound is excessive it becomes noise, which can constitute an air pollution crime. Finally, students will make a noise map of their town to analyse which areas are the loudest and what prevention and correction measures could be used to reduce those levels.

This lesson plan has been carried out face to face. However, this can be done online with equal success. This learning scenario was implemented with 6 groups of 20 students each, aged between 12 and 14 years, from February 8th to 23th.

Local police visit
Operation of a sound level meter
  • All the visuals belong and were provided by the Author – Attribution CC-BY
1st session
A member of the local police visited the classroom. Explained to students that they sometimes got calls from people who complain about excessive noise. The policeman explained that there are noise levels that if you exceed it, it is a crime. He described what they do when they receive these types of calls and showed them a sound level meter and how it works with ambient noises or the sound of the class change bell.
The students talked about whether they have ever had noise problems with their neighbours, which are the loudest areas of the town, and it is decided to make a noise map.

3rd session (Music class) Teacher explained the concepts of pitch and timbre in musical instruments. Students learned to identify an instrument’s timbre using the examples of Musical-U website. After that, the teacher showed them how to distinguish pitch from timbre with the same website. Teacher told them that sometimes sounds, musical or not, can be annoying and then they turn into noise. Students, who already knew how noise is measured, tried to carry out noise measurements by the school (playground, corridors…) with the mobile applications Sound Meter for Android or Sound Meter-Simple Detector for IOS. They took note of the measurements obtained to know the noisiest areas of the school.

5th and 6th sessions (Biology classes) In the computer room, students were divided into 10 groups and each group will make a noise map: Wednesday and one Saturday at different times: 8 – 12 – 16 – 20 and 24h. The teacher gave a town city map (A3 size) to each group and a key map. Students transfered the measurements to the map and painted the area according to the given key map. Students laminated the maps and reflected on which areas of their city are loudest, in which timetable the most noise were detected, and whether there were a difference between the days of the week at the same time. They proposed which real noise prevention and correction measures should be taken in these areas.

2nd session (Physics class) In the computer room, the teacher explained that when a vibration or disturbance originated in a source or focus propagates through space produces a wave. Teacher showed them the characteristics of a wave (amplitude, wavelength, period and frequency) using an Interactive Physics Simulations from oPhysics website. Then the teacher told them that the sound is a longitudinal wave that propagates at 340 m/s in the air. Students searched the Internet for objects or forms of energy that move slower and faster than sound. They wrote their examples on a Padlet previously prepared by the teacher. Students reflected on what they found. The teacher sent homework to find information on supersonic planes.

4th session (Biology class) In the computer room, teacher asked which the loudest areas of the school were, according to his measurements the other day. Students discussed what the reason of these results is. Teacher explained that noise is a type of air pollution that can cause health problems, and shows the different health disorders it can produce, and the effects about living things. Students wrote in a collaborative Lino wall what prevention and correction measures could be adopted. The teacher presented the noise map as a prevention measure. So they visited England Noise and Air Quality Viewer from Extrium, to see how a noise map is, and students look for the level of sound in an English city. Teacher proposed to do a noise map of their town. They knew how to use the mobile applications (Sound Meter for Android or Sound Meter-Simple Detector for IOS) to measure noise, so they can do it at home. Measurements were made one Wednesday and one Saturday at different times: 8 – 12 – 16 – 20 and 24h, in order to compare working and not-working days, and different times. The measurements were recorded in an Excel shared through Google Drive, where the address where each measurement was taken also appeared.

Noise map of our town, Consuegra (Toledo, Spain)

Our students had no problems working face to face as we are currently doing so despite all the measures taken by the coronavirus crisis. Our students gave us feedback and they have discussed the lessons following a questionnaire designed for this purpose. The most important conclusions were:

  • Most students did not know that noise can constitute an air pollution crime.
  • The activities they liked the most were the local police visit, to make the noise map and the Sound Meter Apps.
  • All the students think that the contents have been presented in an interactive and attractive way, and their participation has been favoured.
  • Most students believe that everyone should know about noise and their consequences and what they have learned from this experience is useful.
  • The students consider that the most useful thing they have learned is that we can all contribute to taking care of our town.
  • To further enhance their learning experience, they propose inviting an experts on the subject to learn more about waves and sound first-hand.
  • None of them has had trouble understanding the lesson plan.

Our students now know more about waves, sound and noise. However, the most important thing we have achieved with our students it is that they are aware of the need to involve the entire community to improve well-being and quality of life. Thanks to this experience, the students know that noise is a real problem and that it exists in our town. To enhance the lesson plan, the data could be digitized, reaching more people.

It is very gratifying to teach students something that they do not know and that we consider very important for our wellbeing. In addition, students have seen our content not as something isolated, but as something related and complementary to other subjects.