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Take a moment to pause and look at the tree outside your window. Notice its expansive branches, the delicate sway of its leaves, and the texture of its bark. In the presence of nature, we often feel a deep sense of calm and connection to the world around us. As educators, we have the power to bring this same sense of belonging into our classrooms through nature-inspired design.

Blending the Outdoor and Indoor Spaces

One powerful example of nature-inspired classroom design can be found at the Marygrove Early Education Center in Detroit. This innovative learning space seamlessly integrates the outdoor and indoor environments, sending a clear message to learners and their families: You belong here; We value you. Expansive floor-to-ceiling windows offer breathtaking views of the surrounding courtyards, bringing the beauty of nature directly into the learning spaces. This intentional connection to the outdoors fosters a deep sense of wonder, curiosity, and belonging among those within the space.

Visual and Non-Visual Connections to Nature

At Marygrove, elements of the learning space were carefully selected to create a harmonious blend of nature-inspired design. Furniture and materials with organic shapes and textures create a tactile connection to the natural world, evoking a sense of calm and harmony. The use of a neutral color palette allows students to take center stage in their learning environment, while subtle hints of nature’s palette offer a gentle reminder of the interconnectedness of all living things.

Sustainable and Healthy Environments

Incorporating sustainability and wellness into the classroom is an integral part of nature-inspired design. Natural Pod, a pioneer in sustainable educational furnishings, offers educators the opportunity to furnish their learning spaces with FSC and GREENGUARD certified materials. By choosing sustainable options, educators not only contribute to a healthier planet but also provide students with a safe and eco-friendly space where they can thrive physically and mentally.

Creating a Space within a Space

Within the classroom, the creation of a space within a space further enhances the sense of belonging and connection. Loft areas or reading nooks provide students with a retreat where they can immerse themselves in their favourite books or embark on imaginative adventures. These smaller spaces offer a sense of refuge, allowing students to concentrate and explore their passions while staying connected to the broader environment.

Sense of Place and Belonging

Katie Finch, an advocate for nature-inspired education at Audubon Community Nature Center, beautifully describes the significance of a sense of place in a recent article. She emphasizes that it is through developing a sense of place that students truly feel rooted in the larger world. By incorporating nature-inspired design elements, we can create classrooms that not only inspire academic growth but also instill a deep sense of belonging. Each student becomes an integral part of the interconnected web of life, understanding their unique place within it.


As educators and school leaders, we have the opportunity to transform our classrooms into spaces that foster a sense of belonging through nature-inspired design. The example set by the Marygrove Early Education Center demonstrates the transformative power of seamlessly blending outdoor and indoor spaces, creating visual and non-visual connections to nature, and embracing sustainability and wellness.

When you’re ready to take a step further in embracing nature-inspired design that creates a welcoming space that says, “You belong here; we value you,” we’re here to support bringing your vision to life. Together, we can create learning spaces that reflect the beauty and grandeur of the natural world, instilling a profound sense of belonging and connectedness to each other and the world around your learners.

Photo: Forest and oceans in British Columbia, Canada where Natural Pod is based.

Learn more about our work with Indigenous communities.