We have a tendency to overlook the impact of the physical environment on the human mind and on behavior. But I believe that the impact of physical surroundings, such as the presence of gardens, trees, the architectural design of inner spaces, and urban zoning, bears a strong correlation to well-being and academic functioning.
Boo hoo, I know. But such conditions have an effect on student well-being. How valued do you think students who have water pouring through the ceiling of their classroom feel? How can this not have an effect on student learning? It sure affected my sense of well-being, I can tell you that.
Schools are designed with materials efficiency in mind. Swathes of florescent lighting span unvariegated hallways. Like most older institutions, such as prisons and hospitals, warmth, creativity, and human connection are unfortunately not the first words that spring to mind while walking around a public school. Yet these qualities are arguably what are most needed, especially for children.
I have the sense that if children in our public schools had greater access to natural light, greenery, and a greater variety of niches for learning, they would demonstrate greater achievement.
Unfortunately, access to green spaces and well-designed urban areas tend to be due to socio-economic positioning. The simple presence of “urban trees–or lack thereof–can reveal income inequality” — even from outer space!
This week here on Schools as Ecosystems, I would like to explore the effect of physical environments on student learning and well-being in greater depth, and I hope to uncover some related research in these areas. If you know more about this topic, please drop me a line in the comments!