The Common Core State Standards and the focus on 21st century skills require classroom spaces that promote collaboration and innovation. Yet, most of our elementary schools were built in the 1950s and are filled with desks, bookcases, storage and basic materials. They can be dark, depressing and dank spaces.
How can you bridge that gap? How do you get rid of the bad chi (bad energy) and create a space that is calm and encourages creativity? How can you re-imagine your classroom and turn it into a learning space that better meets learners’ needs?
It is important for teachers to explore the conflict between traditional classroom design and current pedagogy. It is similar to how office space strategies continue to evolve.
Feng shui and the art of classroom design
Teachers should learn to analyze their classroom to better serve learning and learners. Redesigning a classroom can go far in terms of promoting productivity and assisting in classroom management. Where to begin?
Feng shui is one way to get started. It is an ancient Chinese concept for the art of designing for good chi. Chi is defined as “a vital life-energy force.” The arrangement of a room, believers say, promotes good health, good spirits, creativity and the ability to concentrate. Teachers say that even if they don’t fully get feng shui, it works. With some affordable decorating changes, teachers can help chi (positive energy) move fluidly through a classroom, experts say.
Get zen with your classroom space
For kindergarten classrooms, for example, displaying lots of books creates an inviting air and an interest in learning. Teachers should stagger books and display them so the covers are facing outwards, enticing children to take a look.
For all classrooms, such things as bright colors and the placement of furniture are important. Elements like fire, water and earth should be on display.
To create balance, the room should flow. Nothing should serve as a focal point, but rather move in one harmonious direction that continues. Stand at the doorway of your room and see the areas that catch your eye. Now try to clear these areas so when you walk in the classroom, no one thing grabs your attention, but rather the cohesiveness of the room envelopes you.
Tips and tricks to shaping the classroom
According to an Edutopia article by Amy Standen, here are some good tips:
- Both teacher and student desks should be in what feng shui considers the “command position,” facing the entry of the classroom to absorb chi as it enters the room.
- Bright greens and blues encourage learning and development, particularly in younger students. Older students will benefit from darker colors, such as brown and black, which encourage wisdom and deep thinking.
- The entry to the classroom should be unobstructed, leaving a clear path for chi to flow. Obstructions to the path, create tension and stress with the students and the teacher.
- Bookshelves should be placed in the far-left corner of the classroom, from the perspective of the front door. According to feng shui principles, this area encourages learning and critical thinking.
- Windowless classrooms lead to stagnant energy and stagnant minds. A painting or a scene of nature creates a sense of bringing outdoors in and has a very strong life-energy force. Plants can have a similar effect.
Get creative and get started
A professional development course can serve as a guide to gaining background on the connection between learning and classroom design.
This includes analyzing classroom designs based on course concepts; evaluating your own classroom design, its advantages and challenges; redesigning your classroom and implementing a new plan; and getting feedback from colleagues and your students.
Take a look around. Are you feeling the bad chi?