Being outside is good for our students’ health and happiness, and teachers too! Research is proving what we instinctively know about the many benefits being outside in nature itself. However, when teaching outdoors is not an option, consider bringing some of the natural elements from outside, inside! Read more for some easy ideas.
Natural Sounds and Sights
Nature therapy is a new, evidence-based field in medicine defined as the use of natural settings to prevent symptoms and improve well-being. More and more hospitals and offices are recognizing this and incorporating nature into their buildings. It only makes sense that our schools should too. Researchers from the University of Essex have proven that even looking at pictures of nature can reduce blood pressure, pulse rate and tension.
- Open blinds. If you don’t have a view of nature from your classroom then hang pictures
- Green your classroom with plants that purify the air and provide acoustic buffering. String branches, display flowers or natural objects like shells
- Play recordings of nature during quiet time; bird and insect calls, gentle waves can help set the mood.•
Many school buildings have lights worthy of a factory. Harsh fluorescent lights that hum and flicker and can be a cause of eye fatigue are often the norm. Add in the glare from computers and it’s no wonder our students feel tired and unfocused.
- Know the pattern of daylight coming into your classroom and turn off lights accordingly. Students’ circadian rhythms can be more finely tuned if their internal clocks are aware of the natural passage of the day. (This also helps them sleep better at night and improves mood!)
- Look into switching fluorescent bulbs for LED lights, they last longer, are more durable and are cost effective
- Consider alternative types of lighting to reflect differing activities, such as small lamps, battery-operated candles, track lighting, fairy lights and adjustable blinds. Mirrors can help reflect light too.
Hot, stuffy classrooms are not conducive to learning. Sleepiness, loss of focus and fidgeting can result as well as the spread of germs.
- Air classrooms by opening the windows when possible
- Invest in a humidifier or small, table-top water feature. (The sound of water sooths the parasympathetic nervous system)
- Use natural aromatherapy by cutting fruit, bringing in pine needles, lavender or herbs. Certain aromas have specific effects such as lowering stress and improving fatigue.
There is no substitute to spending time outside. However, maximizing the use of natural elements inside our classrooms can only add to children’s well-being and learning as well as fostering their deeper connection to nature.