Utilizing Biophilic Design in Your School and Classroom
Biophilic design is the incorporation of nature into our building design, and the development of green spaces. The need for time in the outdoors is now more than ever apparent, and teachers must be creative with how they can build this notion into their students' classroom experience. So, how can we utilize biophilic design in our schools and classrooms in order to improve student’s and teacher’s experience?
The research is clear on the benefits of nature. In a 2015 study, researchers compared the brains of those who had completed a 90 minute walk in a nature and urban setting. Results showed that those in an urban setting had more activity in the part of the brain most correlated with rumination, or the repetitive focusing on negative thoughts than those who walked in nature. But there should be no need for research in this area because the benefit of nature should be so OBVIOUS to us! What are the most basic and essential ingredients to human survival? Air, water, and food. What gives us all three? Nature, nature, nature. Yet almost all urban environments tend to stray away from this basic need. We must return to our roots with biophilic design.
Biophilic design falls into three categories: Nature in Space, Nature Analogies, and Nature of the Space.
Nature in Space: This refers to incorporating physical elements of nature into building spaces. This includes but is not limited to natural lighting, indoor/outdoor plants, and indoor water fixtures.
Nature Analogues: This refers to incorporating representations of nature into a physical place. This could take the shape in furniture, surfaces, and murals or paintings.
Nature of the Space: This refers to how we design a space, and how different elements work with each other to produce an overall theme.
While all of these examples and attributes of biophilic spaces are inspiring and quite creative, the actual implementation of these spaces is not limited to those with creativity, but those with the resources to incorporate such inviting spaces in their schools and classrooms. So how can we use the concepts of this design to help develop biophilic classrooms “on budget”.
Fractals: Fractals are complex patterns that are ever common in nature (honeycomb, bark pattern, or a leaf’s print). Incorporating these patterns into school buildings reduces stress and lends to better performance.
Coloring: Harsh and bright colors such as red might overstimulate learners. Softer colors such as green or blue will lead to an enhanced learning environment.
Audio: Sounds played from nature, such as a brook or forest floor, have shown to physically change our mind and body systems. Incorporating sounds from nature can be a comforting and versatile tool in the classroom whether it's during time for students to decompress or during silent work.
Plants: Adding plants to a classrooms theme and decor has shown to influence student performance resulting in a 10-14% improvement in STEM subjects. Plants can be included in lesson plans or simply for the brightness it brings to a classroom.
Biophilic design is the design of the future. It’s what's needed, not “what would be nice”. Students are increasingly spending less time outdoors and more time stuck in front of a screen. COVID-19 has further developed this, and the need for time outdoors has never been more pertinent.
Just as a musician might create an album to evoke a certain emotion or theme, classrooms must be put together with similar close attention to what students need. Students need nature, students, need to feel a sense of calm amidst all the chaos that is ever more present in this world.
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