Children spend 180 days a year inside the classroom. The classroom is more than just a space to take tests and receive new information—it is an environment that serves as a safe place, a home away from home, for many children. The idea of the classroom as a safe place makes it imperative that children do in fact feel comfortable within the classroom. In their book, Through a Child’s Eyes, Sandra Duncan, Jody Martin, and Sally Haughey explain how the design of a classroom plays a large part in the creation of this safe place, along with creating a space that fosters learning, critical thinking, and focus.
When designing a classroom that reaches a child’s maximum potential, there are some essentials for educators. The first essential is that children must be honored. Honoring children in the design of a classroom treats them as important, competent contributors to the classroom. This act of honoring the students can be evident in the work of students being displayed in thoughtful ways that empower the student. The next essential is the cherishing of children’s spaces. Cherishing children’s spaces is achieved by having a classroom design that preserves the qualities that make children so special—laughter, joy, curiosity, playfulness, and innocence. By preserving these qualities in not just the child, but the classroom space as well, the nurturing of children is greatly improved.
In addition to honoring children and cherishing the space they occupy, it is essential that educators celebrate the spirit of the classroom. Through celebrating the spirit of the classroom teachers help to create spaces of freedom and happiness where mysteries can be explored fully. The final essential of classroom design is the marriage of balance and beauty. All too often classrooms are treated as sterile, generic spaces that are hard to the touch and filled with plastic, but children deserve and need beauty. Classrooms that incorporate natural light, vibrant colors, and plants help give children a deeper connection to the wonders of the world through aesthetic experience.
Here are some enriching ways to spruce up a classroom to make a positive impact:
Creating a Curiosity Table:
Place a small table near the entryway to the classroom. Position the table so it is easily visible from the door. Children should have a clear view of its contents as they enter. The curiosity table is an invitation to come in, to actively engage, to discover. The goal is to provoke children’s interests and ignite their minds and bodies so they are eager to make the transition into the classroom.
Some objects you can include
- Writing tools
- Flower petals
- Garden tools
- Empty thread spools
- Petrified wood
Infuse nature in every part of the classroom:
- Nature should be in more than a science corner. Gourds or pumpkins can be set on tables, green foliage can be placed around the room, and seashells can be strung and included in a manipulatives area. Burlap and wicker items can also be included.
Use natural elements to create art:
- Twigs, rocks, sponges, and more can be used to create paintings and many other art projects.
Include living things such as fish, hermit crabs, caterpillars, and gardens in the classroom.