Agriculture
Springing forward
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Got Milk? How?
Amphibians
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Poison Dart Frogs
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Tool Use Comes Naturally to Crows
Armadillo
Clone Wars
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The nerve of one animal
Making Sense of Scents
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Silk’s superpowers
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Nonstop Robot
Electronic Paper Turns a Page
Hubble trouble doubled
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A Rainforest Trapped in Amber
South America's sticky tar pits
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E Learning Jamaica
2014 GSAT Results for Jamaican Kids
E Learning in Jamaica WIN PRIZES and try our Fun Animated Games
Results of GSAT are in schools this week
Earth
The Pacific Ocean's Bald Spot
Earth's Poles in Peril
A Great Quake Coming?
Environment
Nanosponges Soak Up Pollutants
Ready, unplug, drive
The Birds are Falling
Finding the Past
Preserving Ancient Warrior Paint
Big Woman of the Distant Past
An Ancient Childhood
Fish
Pygmy Sharks
Salmon
Tiger Sharks
Food and Nutrition
Making good, brown fat
Yummy bugs
The mercury in that tuna
GSAT English Rules
Problems with Prepositions
Who vs. That vs. Which
Whoever vs. Whomever
GSAT Exam Preparation Jamaica
Mastering The GSAT Exam
Ministry of Education Announces 82 GSAT Scholarships for 2010
Scotiabank Jamaica Foundation Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) Scholarships
GSAT Exams Jamaica Scholarships
Access denied - Disabled boy aces GSAT
42,000 students will sit for the GSAT Exam in two weeks
GSAT Scholarship
GSAT Mathematics
Monkeys Count
Losing with Heads or Tails
GSAT Practice Papers | GSAT Mathematics | Maths
Human Body
Sleeping Soundly for a Longer Life
Taste Messenger
Music in the Brain
Invertebrates
Ants
Crabs
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Mammals
Ponies
Weasels and Kin
Deers
Parents
Children and Media
What Not to Say to Emerging Readers
The Surprising Meaning and Benefits of Nursery Rhymes
Physics
Gaining a Swift Lift
Thinner Air, Less Splatter
One ring around them all
Plants
Hungry bug seeks hot meal
Surprise Visitor
White fuzzy mold not as friendly as it looks
Reptiles
Cobras
Komodo Dragons
Crocodiles
Space and Astronomy
Asteroid Moons
Planning for Mars
Burst Busters
Technology and Engineering
A Micro-Dose of Your Own Medicine
Model Plane Flies the Atlantic
Young Scientists Take Flight
The Parts of Speech
Pronouns
Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Adjectives and Adverbs
Transportation
Revving Up Green Machines
Ready, unplug, drive
Tinkering With the Basic Bike
Weather
Antarctica warms, which threatens penguins
Polar Ice Feels the Heat
Either Martians or Mars has gas
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Listen and Learn

If you want to learn anything at school, you need to listen to your teachers. Unfortunately, millions of kids can't hear what their teachers are saying. And it's not because these students are goofing off. Often, it's the room's fault. Faulty architecture and building design can create echo-filled classrooms that make hearing difficult. In recent years, scientists who study sound have been urging schools to reduce background noise, which may include loud air-conditioning units and clanging pipes. They're also targeting outdoor noises, such as highway traffic. Experts at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association have created guidelines that describe how much noise is too much. Although there are no laws to enforce these recommendations yet, a growing number of schools are taking them seriously. For example, some schools are changing existing classrooms to make them quieter. And new schools are being built with the most advanced noise-eliminating technology available. Noise reduction is a big deal. Why? Because quieter classrooms might make you smarter by letting you hear your lessons better. "It's so obvious that we should have quiet rooms that allow for access to the curriculum," says Dan Ostergren. He's an audiologist, or hearing scientist, in Fort Collins, Colo. "Sometimes it astounds me that we spend so much time discussing this topic," he adds. "I just want to go, 'Duh.' Why is this hard for anyone to grasp?" Hearing problems Children with hearing impairments suffer most from noisy classrooms, studies show. They sometimes can't hear questions that other students ask in class. Compared with kids with healthy hearing, they have a harder time picking up new vocabulary words by overhearing them in conversation. Tests show that kids with hearing loss have more trouble learning to read than kids who can hear well. They also have a harder time behaving correctly in social situations because they don't always hear how people normally tell stories or respond to questions. And background noise makes it even harder for them to hear what's going on. "It's a huge problem," says Peggy Nelson, an audiologist at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. As many as 15 percent of school-age kids in the United States have ear problems that affect their hearing on any given day, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. Tests show that even kids with normal hearing have a harder time in the classroom when there's too much noise. Younger children in particular have trouble separating important sounds—like a teacher's voice—from background noise, such as the hum of traffic on a nearby highway. That's because their brains haven't yet developed the ability to differentiate sounds as well as teenage and adult brains do. Kids with learning disabilities and speech impediments and kids for whom English is a second language also have a harder time learning in noisy situations. Taking sound seriously The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association guidelines recommend that the background noise in classrooms be no higher than 35 decibels (dB). That's about as loud as a whispering voice 15 feet away. Many classrooms are much louder than that, and, unfortunately, many schools don't have the resources to correct the problem. To collect data for the guidelines, Nelson observed schools in a variety of settings—in the city and the country, and in both rich and poor neighborhoods. She used sound meters to measure noise levels in empty classrooms in each of the schools. Some classrooms registered a peaceful 30 dB. But noise levels in other rooms exceeded 65 dB, almost as loud as a vacuum cleaner. "A teacher has to shout to be heard above that," Nelson says. The noisier a room is to begin with, Nelson says, the louder kids and teachers have to talk to hear each other. So, sound levels just keep going up and up. "It's kind of a snowball [effect]," she says. The loud hum of heating and air-conditioning units is the biggest sound problem in many schools, Nelson says. The scraping of chairs on the floor adds noise. So does the background whir of classroom computers and the hum of traffic outdoors. Keeping it quiet It costs a lot of money to turn a loud building into a quiet one, but more and more school districts are making sound a priority. And people who are planning new schools are also paying attention to acoustics. In Fort Collins, Colorado, where Ostergren works, the new Kinard Junior High School has been built with thick, solid walls between classrooms to prevent sounds from leaking through. Sounds create echoes as they ping-pong off hard, parallel surfaces, such as ceilings and floors, so rooms at Kinard have tilted ceilings, to help stop the effect. Ventilations systems are quiet. Teachers wear microphones, and a built-in speaker system enhances everything they say. The Kinard School opened in the fall of 2006, and researchers are eagerly awaiting the results of the standardized tests the students took last spring. They hope that test scores will rise when kids can hear more of what's going on. "It's a wonderful long-term study here to see if a school built to the [guidelines] improves student achievement," Ostergren says. There is reason to be optimistic. When a major airport changed locations in Germany, Nelson says, students in schools located near the new airport started performing worse on vocabulary and reading tests. Students at schools near the closed airport, on the other hand, started doing better in the same subjects. Quiet rooms appeal to teachers who don't like raising their voices to teach. Kids seem to like quieter rooms, too, and not just because they're learning more. "When a teacher has to raise her voice, she sounds angry," Ostergren says. "The general level of ease is enhanced with a better room. Everyone wins."

Listen and Learn
Listen and Learn








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