Coming into my classroom after spring break, it felt like a different room. Before the break I took down my hanging ferns and brought my potted plants home, and it wasn’t until coming back after the break that I realized the impact these plants have on the classroom.
There are obvious benefits to having plants in the classroom, like providing higher air-quality, but they also provide a feeling of life and brightness to the room. Over the last year I’ve gradually accumulated elements of the natural world and incorporated them into my classroom, and the response has been universally positive. Students who aren’t even in my classroom ask to come hang out in there after school.
My students have been some of the most vocal supporters of having plants in the classroom, for a number of reasons. Many of them seem to have positive associative memories with plants, and these attitudes emerge in the classroom when I mention plants to them. “I like plants, because I’m a gardener,” said one student in my class, while another student commented that she liked plants “because they give us lots of food.” Even though the plants in my room don’t produce fruits or vegetables, there’s a powerful sense of association.
Even when asked to choose between two nearly identical photos of my classroom on my laptop—one with plants on the tables and hanging in the windows, and one without plants—every student said they’d prefer to learn in the classroom with plants. “It has nature in it, and nature is my favourite thing,” said one student. Other students referred to the room as “beautiful” and “pretty,” while another student had trouble articulating exactly why he preferred the room with plants. “I just like them!” he said, when pressed on why specifically.
Coming back to the classroom post-spring break, it was a satisfying task rehanging plants in the window. Without nature in the windows, they seemed gaping and uncomfortably barren. With each plant I hung over each window, the room slowly transformed back into the cozy slice of nature me and my students had come to know in the classroom.
Natural Pod – Classroom Without Plants
Natural Pod – Classroom With Plants