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Lunchtime Innovation

  • Sophisticated psychology mixes with sophisticated technology at Sharon Elementary, a public school located about an hour north of Atlanta in Suwanee, GA. All this sophistication is put into action to prove a well-established concept: Music soothes the savage beast--or the kindergartener.
  • In the school's cafeteria, where grades K-8 convene for lunch daily, a sound system has been installed to limit the general chaos through the strategic use of music. Every five or seven minutes, music plays for about five minutes. While the music is on, the kids quiet down. They still talk, just a lot more softly. Until the music stops, and the dull roar rises to a typical packed-cafeteria level.
  • It's eerie for the uninitiated to witness this phenomenon for the first time, but it's astounding how well it works.
  • My nephew, Alex, is going into the first grade at Sharon. Back when he was a kid in kindergarten I had lunch with him a couple of times in this very school cafeteria, which is open to family lunchtime visitors. It was startling. When I was there the music was soothing smooth jazz, which was piped through two prominent Electro-Voice loudspeakers mounted on the wall that faces a small stage across the big lunchroom.
  • I asked my nephew what was going on, but since he didn't understand why I'm so curious about a sound system, he instead discussed the different colored cups on poles that indicate how much trouble a table of kids is in. Apparently the kids have been told to be quiet when the music comes on. It's subtle conditioning, not a natural reaction, and much more effective than lunch attendants' limited authority. And if the music doesn't do the trick, the lunchroom authorities can quickly scan and see which is the offending table by the color of cup on the pole.
  • Will Georgia restaurants that play smooth jazz find eerie whispering among its diners in about 20 years? It works through the eighth grade, but long-term effects should be studied.
  • For now, lunchtime stress on faculty in this school is alleviated by a time-proven concept of music applied via sophisticated sound-system technology and programming. Proper digestion is another benefit.
  • It was startling how easy it could be to get a bunch of naturally rowdy kids to take moments of quiet in stride. It's also easy to take an education facility system to a higher level of effectiveness with just the application of a concept where it's not commonly applied.
  • Another time-worn concept is that of necessity being the mother of invention. When it's necessary to work in a tough market, invention like quiet kids at lunchtime is a great byproduct. In many parts of the country, integrators have reported a sluggish education market for the public school primary grades. In a general trend of government funds not finding their way to that sector, integrators take the natural course of pursuing new revenue streams. It takes some imagination to get ahead when federal money for educational facilities seems to be drying up.
  • While diversification is an obvious solution, it's encouraging that innovation can happen in a most basic and uninspiring place, a grade school cafeteria. When it's time to step back and assess the structure of business and what there is to offer an end-user, a simple concept can make all the difference in a new application using available equipment.