Supporting Mental Health with Classroom Design
January 4, 2023
To say that the past few years have been a challenge for our students would be a great understatement. Most have experienced some combination of learning from home and physical distancing on site, both of which have not only made learning more difficult but have limited the growth of the social skills necessary for success. All of that has taken a collective toll on mental health.
The answers for these challenges vary from curricula to individual educators, but classroom design is among the factors that can support better mental health for our students. Let’s take a look:
Flexible furniture. Engaged students are more likely to learn, and in fact one study reports that the choice of classroom furniture alone can increase student participation significantly.
We have addressed the value of flexible furniture in classroom settings many times here, and it’s more important than ever. While the traditional desks-in-a-row classroom arrangement is suitable for one-to -many learning, collaborative work may call for chairs around larger tables, and a semicircle arrangement of chairs allows for better eye contact and interaction. The bottom line is that classroom furniture that can adapt to different activities will result in better engagement and better outcomes.
Get the light right. With the caveat that this may not always be controllable, classrooms should obviously have lighting adequate to the task at hand. Natural light is directly related to well-being for students (and all of us), so take care not to block windows with bookcases or other furniture. Greenery can also help contribute to better performance, whether that takes the form of plants in the classroom, the view outside the windows or both.
It is possible to have too much of a good thing, though. Large, overly bright windows without shades or blinds can create distracting glare and make it difficult to view videos, slideshows or other presentations. As with furniture, classroom lighting that can adapt to the task at hand is a worthy goal.
Start with a plan. The ideal classroom design may be very different from one educator to another. A good plan begins with a review of the curriculum, giving thought to the ideal arrangement of lighting and furniture for each component. While some of these items may not be within the control of teachers or administrators, there may be room for creative solutions. Windows that let in too much light, for example, might be partially covered with student art projects, a simple, no-cost fix.
Finally, let the students chime in. At any age, we like to feel we have a voice in what happens around us. Soliciting feedback on things like seating arrangements will make students feel valued and that their voices are important, both vital components of engagement.
Questions about how you can support your students’ mental health? Contact Douron.