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Creating a Calming Classroom

Tips for Teachers to Maximize the Learning Environment

Creating Calming Classrooms
October 20, 2019 iteachus

Creating a Calm Classroom

Is your classroom a place that creates calm? Studies show that our environment affects the way we learn. According to an article by Learning Liftoff “A new study from The Research Alliance for New York City Schools shows that learning environments play a significant role in student success. Most educators have suspected this for decades, and now they have evidence showing that schools can potentially lift student achievement by improving their learning environments.

It can be easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of the school day-to-day and not remember that your classroom is where your students spend quite a bit of their life – and even more important, it is where you spend hours of your life. Do you even find yourself flipping through dreamy catalogs or Pinterest boards wishing that your home or workspace looked like a magazine? Then why not make it a reality?

Can Lighting Change the Way Students Learn?

Have you ever gone into Walmart and compared the lighting to that of Target? Have you ever noticed the difference in the lighting in a formal dining restaurant and McDonalds? For years organizations have done studies on how to get people to stay in or leave their establishments. According to the book, The McDonaldization of Society, McDonalds spent countless hours designing their restaurants for efficiency. Instead of padding the seat of the chairs, they padded the back. The entire layout and workings, from how you placed your order to the lighting was created to get you in and out in around 15 minutes. Comfort was important, but only for a short period of time.

Great naturally lit photo of a student and teacher

Target keeps shoppers in store by creating a treasure-hunt like shopping experience, constantly changing up the decor and the products so that shoppers feel like there is something new to see and buy. What if you changed up your classroom occasionally to keep students engaged and not bored? Lighting can play an important role in a learning environment. In an article on MentalFloss.com, “catching a few rays of natural sunlight during the day can make a world of difference. One 2014 study found that people who had windows in their office exercised more, got more sleep (on average, 46 minutes more a night!), and had a greater sense of overall wellbeing than those whose offices had no windows. Researchers believe exposure to natural light helps our bodies stick to their natural circadian rhythms, so that they know when to feel alert and energetic and when to feel sleepy.”

There are many factors that come into play when creating a great learning environment, but lighting might be the most affordable way to improve the environment. With smart LED bulbs you can now create ambience with bulbs that can be changed to different temperature of light or color with an app. One of my favorite bulbs that is also very affordable is the Sengled Multi-color bulb which can be controlled with an app or Amazon Alexa.

Design that Increases the Learning Experience

When it comes to our classrooms, can we lure students into enjoying coming to class by creating a better in-class experience? Can we create an environment that is conducive to learning? Yes. According to a 2016 Article by ConnectingElements.com:

“…student outcomes are the most important indicator of success. Practically everything revolves around boosting student learning achievements, including funding, professional development for teachers, the implementation of standardized tests and enrichment or remediation opportunities for students.

Unfortunately, classroom design—which has a significant impact on learning outcomes—is often an afterthought. Luckily, attitudes around classroom design are shifting, and educators are making an effort to create ideal learning environments for diverse groups of students.”

When I was in Austin at the state capitol this year, I heard Dan Leal speak about mentoring and one of the things he mentioned that their organization does is paint and clean up schools to help them look better. This got me wondering about the impact that our environment has on us and how productive we are. I know that for me I am often most productive in a coffee shop that has good natural light and comfortable seating. I prefer a space that is devoid of clutter and is clean. If possible, high ceilings are great and I like my latte with just a whisper of vanilla. When the right elements are in place I find that I am the most productive and the most creative – meaning that not only do I get more work done, but my work is actually better.

The Elephant House where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter

Photo Credit Wiki Commons

Even J.K. Rowling said that the best place to write is in a coffee shop. This was a quote from an interview with her from The Urbanette: “It’s no secret that the best place to write, in my opinion, is in a café. You don’t have to make your own coffee, you don’t have to feel like you’re in solitary confinement and if you have writers block, you can get up and walk to the next café while giving your batteries time to recharge and brain time to think. The best writing café is crowded enough to where you blend in, but not too crowded that you have to share a table with someone else.”

Make Your Classroom a Space You Want to Be In

Now not all of our classrooms can be coffee shops, but that doesn’t mean we can’t create spaces that are designed to help students learn. And let’s not forget about ourselves along the way either! It can be easy to neglect what we want when it comes to our environment. What kind of space are you most productive in? What kind of space will calm you down or energize you – or both?

minimal calming classroom

You may not have an eye for design, so you just avoid it. It’s okay, you can ask a friend for advice or take a look at Pinterest for some great ideas on how to hygge (a Dutch word for making a space cozy and content) up your classroom. I like to decorate, and I think I’m good at it, but sometimes time and money are a deterrent. But I find that even simple things like organization and a nice coat of paint can go a long way to add color or even clean up a room.

Lastly, when it comes to classroom design you don’t have to make your classroom look like a classroom with a design theme straight out of a box of crayons. None of the spaces I really enjoy being in are covered in an assortment of bright colors and they aren’t covered floor to ceiling with posters and knickknacks. While covering a wall with something zany can be fun and energetic, it might not be the best way to create a space for learning.

 

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