Imagine the feeling you get upon entering a room filled with light and natural elements. Have you ever wondered how this type of environment affects how children think and feel? Have you considered the impact that they have on a child’s ability to learn and absorb information? The answer, and there is a lot of research to prove it, is that a thoughtfully designed environment can enhance a child’s ability to absorb information, can help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve mood, and enable students to perform at their best.
Let’s look at the three factors that contribute most significantly to this improved state of mind and enhanced performance:
Active design – Designing for health and wellness. Spaces that encourage activity and ones that compel students to move will help kids learn better and help keep them focused. Movement opens up neural pathways, improves memory, and increases attention span. Choose furniture such as standing desks, benches, and stability balls that encourage movement. Another way to naturally incorporate activity throughout the day is to choose furniture that can move with your students. Use benches that provide infinite options for different configurations, find tables that can easily be moved into different groupings, and make sure to involve your students in the process. Creating a dynamic learning environment that easily adapts to the tasks at hand will naturally bring movement into your students’ day.
Biophilic design – Design that incorporates a love of living things. Connecting with nature and natural elements has been proven to lower blood pressure, reduces stress, and even help restore attention. Therefore, it is essential that children have the ability to be outside and and, if at all possible, have a view to the outside throughout the day. While we may think students are zoning out when staring at the clouds or a bird flying in the sky, they are actually unconsciously processing information and giving their brains a break so that they can refocus. Even providing something as simple as nature photos and indoor plants in your classroom can allow students to relax and will help calm the static in their brains.
Natural daylight – Access to natural daylight can help regulate our circadian rhythm, or internal clock. Exposure to the blue light that the sun provides helps keep us focused and alert during the day just as darkness during the night helps ensure restful sleep. Studies have shown that our internal clocks can be disrupted by not getting enough blue light during the day and by getting too much blue light exposure at night from electronic devices. Being exposed to plenty of natural daylight throughout the day will not only help regulate your students’ internal clocks and help them sleep better, but will also help them absorb more information, focus longer, and even score higher on tests. Position furniture strategically to take the most advantage of natural light entering the classroom, and if you have windows in your classroom, make sure to keep blinds open and windows unobstructed to let the sun shine in.
You will find that bringing more movement, natural elements, and daylight into your classroom is rather easy to do and will have a profound impact on your students’ health, mood, and performance.
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