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The Universities of Salford and Southampton and ecsite-uk, the UK Network of Science Centres and Museums have collaborated to create a series of dialogue events to engage the public in topical discussion about acoustics. Two activities are being developed, one to discuss 'Soundscapes' (aimed at adults) and another activity addressing 'Young people and hearing damage' (aimed at young people). These events have been developed and will be piloted in May 2008 before the main events take place in summer 2008.

Soundscapes (20 – 40 year olds)
Participants would use structured materials to discuss the effects of noise in the environment. The materials will be less structured than with a school-age audience and designed to stimulate discussions. They could be in the style of sciencehorizons or Decide activities ( , which are aimed at interested adults but do not cover this topic. 20 – 40 year olds are a difficult age group to reach.

Topics could include:

  • Noise pollution – should there be legislation?
  • Virtual domestic acoustics
  • Adding positive noise to an environment.
  • designing more pleasant cities
  • music at work and use of headphones - changing dynamics between colleagues.
  • Union codes of best practice.

Young people and hearing damage (8 – 19 year olds)

This would discuss the use of headphones in public places, how noise might damage hearing and the tight to do what you want vs other people’s rights. The main outcome of the event is for the participants to come up with a public health warning to their peers about the dangers of loud music. The primary school age group will be a new age group to develop debate-style materials for. There are many links with the curriculum in both science and citizenship areas.

Tasks could include

  • Discussions around what it acceptable noise. e.g. baby crying, musical instrument practice, kids playing, music on stereo from someone’s house, from shop in street, from pub in street, music from phone in park, music from phone on bus, music from someone else’s headphones in street or on bus, people talking loudly in street, in class, or on bus.
  • What can we do if other people are making noise that is annoying us.
  • Should some places be designated as quiet places e.g. quiet coaches on trains, areas in parks etc. which of the above sounds should be allowed or not in these places?
  • Which headphones would you buy – pictures and prices of different headphones with sales descriptions.
  • When do you use headphones? Listen to music, play music, tv, phone.
  • Which of the following do you own/use? Mp3 player or ipod, phone, tv etc