You know how some people’s homes exude a particular mood or personality? A home might be a place of comfort and coziness, or one of refreshment and retreat, or one of creative energy and color. Now, remember back to college flat days when you, or at least one of your friends, had nothing but a secondhand recliner and a mattress on the floor. Usually, those spaces were occupied as little as possible, with free time spent far, far away. There’s something to be said about the aesthetics of a place.
So what mood or personality does your classroom exude?
There are a few classroom design qualities that are good for students and for learning. I’ve included some from a study here, and added a few of my own:
- Is there a good amount of natural lighting? Daylighting has a huge impact on well-being and productivity.
- Can you turn off the fluorescents? Fluorescent lighting affects vision and the nervous system. Even if it means a dimmer a classroom, if there’s enough ambient lighting, turning off the lights may improve student performance.
- Would the temperature satisfy Goldilocks — not too hot, not too cold?
- Do students see themselves represented by their classroom décor?
- Are student groups represented equally in posters or artwork?
- Are students represented positively and respectfully? American Indian mascots or Mexican children in sombreros are not necessarily imagery that boosts achievement.
- Are student interests represented fairly by the décor? Many sport-themed objects may cause less athletic students to feel insecure.
- Is student achievement represented by completed projects on the walls or shelves?
- How is color used in your classroom? Bright, primary colors are common in elementary grades, meant to draw students in, but such colors carry big visual impact, and may be over-stimulating in an environment that should invite concentration.
- How are work areas arranged? Students need space of their own to work, but the furniture arrangement should also facilitate collaboration.
- Is there room to move about your classroom? Your growing students need all the space they can get!
- Is everything out on display, or are things tidily tucked away? This is a big personal preference, with artistic types preferring to see everything in the open, but visual over-stimulation remains a concern for students. Besides, they’ll be more respectful of materials that get rotated, and more interested in materials that stay novel and relevant.
- What does your classroom smell like? Some essential oils are known to boost alertness and concentration, and they sure beat the odor of wet sneakers or a smashed banana in a lunch bag.
- Are there any natural elements? Houseplants are known to purify the air, make you smarter, and improve concentration. Letting students help out with watering, fertilizing, and pruning gives them some investment and tactile learning, as well.
- How do you use sound or music in your classroom? It might seem a contrived attempt at feng shui, but the white noise of a fountain or aquarium muffles annoying intermittent sounds, and can boost concentration. Likewise, well-selected music evokes particular moods, whether of conviviality during collaborative art time, or accomplishment during classroom cleanup.
You and your students spend hours in your classroom a week. If the space doesn’t invite learning, it can easily feel like forced captivity. We crave a certain feeling in the interior design of our homes, so why not our classroom?