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It’s not often that books in the field of education and design crossover in such an accessible way, and that speak directly to the truth and the times we find ourselves in. ‘Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind’ by Claire Latané is one of those fantastic books and couldn’t have been published at a more timely moment.

The title is perfectly descriptive in that Claire Latané takes a very deep dive into where we are now, where we’ve come from, and what we can do going forward to support the mental and physical health of our learners and educators through the buildings and learning environments they find themselves in. This is a great summary by Manal J. Aboelata, MPH, Deputy Executive Director, Prevention Institute who contributed the foreword introduction to ‘Schools That Heal’: Design with Mental Health in Mind’

“Claire Latane provides us with stories and data that clearly demonstrate that the current dominant practices in school design harm our children, mentally and physically. Claire helps us take a good, honest look at how we’ve built, designed, and maintained our schools for decades. But, more than that ‘Schools That Heal’ help us unlock our imaginations. Claire provides teachers, parents, administrators, students and designers with inspiration and examples to help us reimagine what is possible. Through expert interviews and primary research, she demonstrates how designing, building, and maintaining schools to foster health and to respect the environment can make our children feel truly safe, welcomed, loved, and respected.” – Manal J. Aboelata

Claire even claims herself that, “it is hard to make healthy schools. Even in neighbourhoods that have plenty of resources, most school environments fall short of supporting students’ mental and physical health and well-being. Too few school decision makers know that decades of research show that creating nature-filled school environments improves mental health, lessens crime, gives a sense of safety, and improves academic success.” Claire does a fantastic job of including the voices of others whose work or passion is also at the forefront of this topic. She approaches the continuation of chapters like a journey, bringing in extensive research, featured schools, and laying out a variety of concepts and blueprints to get us where our learners and educators need us to be in order to care for their well-being.

Her chapter topics cover:

  1. Nine Reasons Why We Should Design Schools with Mental Health in Mind
  2. How School Environments Shape Mental, Social, and Physical Health
  3. Site Design Strategies to Support Mental Health, Safety, and Well-being
  4. Leveraging Schools for Public Health, Equity, and Climate Resilience
  5. How to Communicate for the Best Chance at Change
  6. Money Doesn’t Grow on Trees … Or Does It?
  7. Ten Schools to Inspire and Guide You
  8. Conversations on Transformation by Design
  9. For the Love of Students

We highly recommend this book to anyone who is in education and cares about the well-being of themselves, their colleagues, and the millions of children and students who need us to create learning environments that put their mental and physical well-being at the center of their learning.

You can purchase ‘Schools That Heal: Design with Mental Health in Mind’ by Claire Latané from any good book shop, including Island Press.

About the Author:

Claire Latané MLA, ASLA, LEED AP, SITES AP is a landscape architecture professor at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona). Her teaching and scholarship apply research connecting the mind, body, and environment to design places and processes that support mental health. Claire has practiced landscape architecture for 14 years. She has designed interactive environments for elementary schools, middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities as well as for affordable housing communities and public parks. In 2017, the Landscape Architecture Foundation selected her as one of the inaugural Fellows for Innovation and Leadership to explore school design that supports students’ mental health. Her CPP MLA studio partners with K-12 schools to co-create healing school environments and communities. Claire lives in Los Angeles, where her own garden is an experiment on what will grow wild with little care but lots of love.

“Latané’s thorough and fascinating work on designing for student mental health leads us to the natural world, a place with infinite power to soothe and uplift everyone who engages with it. Both poetic and practical, this book examines every facet of this movement, all supported by research and results from environmental psychologists, educators, families, and students. The outcome is a compelling case for nature-driven planning and design.” — Laura Solano, Partner, Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates, Landscape Architects
“What timely help is found in Schools that Heal! Educators are under tremendous pressure to compensate children for the educational, social, and emotional hardships amplified by the global pandemic. This book is a must-read guide to ways that school communities can rethink and redo the indoor and outdoor environments of our schools to support student, staff, and community healing and well-being.” — Mary Filardo, Executive Director, 21st Century School Fund & Coordinator, National Council on School Facilities

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