NUMBER 279• 29 MAY 2003 • PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT
INDEX OF QUOTESReferences
We increase our chances of connecting with students by creating warm, inviting environments where students want to be. One often-overlooked avenue for creating such an atmosphere is the school or facility’s physical environment.
Schools should be attractive places. We can unintentionally send a very negative message to students when we do not keep our schools well maintained—“We don’t care enough about you to clean or paint.” Just the opposite message is sent when schools are decorated with items such as plants, when walls and bulletin boards are decorated with student art and photographs, and when student and staff awards and recognition for accomplishments are on display. Stewart, Evans, and Kaczynski (1997) note that an aesthetically pleasing environment can actually influence behavior. They believe that bulletin boards and walls should be appealing to the eye, uncluttered, and changed frequently. While some might think that such items would be destroyed by students, especially those with severe behavioral problems, this is not the case. In fact, our students take pride in their school building and are eager to show it off to their families and visitors.
Even gestures that seem small can go a long way toward making a school building or agency facility seem more like a “home.” For example:
One teacher in our building has a table in the middle of the room with a tablecloth on it, a favorite spot for students to work. Whenever I see children working there, I am reminded of a family sitting around the kitchen table in a home.
In a large inner-city school, a friend of mine was assigned to teach a class of students with EIBD in an old shop building. Instead of simply filling the room with desks and chairs in traditional rows, she transformed the negative space into a warm, inviting environment by adding carpet, a sitting area, and plants.
In our school’s conference room, we not only display student art, but we have it professionally framed. Although many schools post student art and writing on bulletin boards, it sends an extra special message to students when they see their work in a “real” frame.
I visited a middle school library recently where students could sit and read in rocking chairs near tables with lamps, as if they were in a living room.
Every year, our students plant and tend flower beds outside the doors to our school building. This project is not only fun for the students, but the flowers help create a cheery welcome for visitors to our school.
A high school workplace readiness classroom that I know of is decorated with silk plants. The teacher of this program writes, “When our program began nearly ten years ago, I placed two silk plants on the two writing tables in the center of the room. Numerous colleagues said at that time, ‘Do you honestly think that those two silk plants are going to survive more than a week in a room with over 100 at-risk students per day?’ Ten years later, the two silk plants are almost like new. They might be missing a few leaves, but they are one example of how much pride the students have taken in their ‘workplace’ (Christensen, 1997).
Johns, B. (1997). Making school a place to call home. Reaching Today's Youth. Vol.2 No.1 p 35
Stewart, S.; Evans, W. & Kaczynski. (1997). Setting the stage for success: assessing the instructional environment. Preventing school failure, 41(2), 53-56.
Christensen, M. (1997). Developing literacy skills: Teaching for 21st century employment. Bloomington, IN: National Education Service