"One can never consent to creep when one feels the impulse to soar." ---Helen Keller

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Optimum Learning Environment

Much brain research has been done on how our environment affects our feelings, behavior, health, etc. The classroom is no different. The classroom decor/look has certainly changed since I first started teaching, some of which has been for the better, but maybe not all (possibly a little bit cluttered these days). As teachers, we spend so much of our time there these days, that it is quite natural to desire to make it little more like home and to reflect our personalities.

I read a wonderful book last spring by Eric Jensen. He has done so much in the way of brain research and how it affects learning. The book is titled Environments for Learning. It is only about 50 pages, but full of interesting tidbits on how the classroom environment affects the learning process.

It begins with what I believe to be very true. When we walk into a room, whether consiously or unconsiously, we look around, listen, breathe, and form judgements about the environment.

It is a great read, and I will not do it justice with this post, but I thought I would share a few tidbits that I picked up while reading. I will arrange them by the senses.


One of the first things we notice when entering a room is the temperature.

  • 68 to 72 degrees Farenheit is the range of comfortable temperatures.
  • 70 degrees F. is ideal for most learning situations where optimal focus and concentration is required.
  • reading comprehension declines when temperatures rise above 74.
  • math comprehension declines above 77.
  • up to a point the cooler the brain the more cognitively sharp you are.



  • Sunlight enhances mood (that would be me...I can't stand being in a room with no windows.UGH!!!)
  • Bright natural sunlight is best. Take them on a walk if you are in one those windowless rooms. TRUST ME on that one. I am that kid.
  • Sunlit rooms produced 26% higher reading test scores in one study.


  • Best color for classroom is sky-blue tinged with red for thoughtful study, but also alertness.
  • Add color to presentations and visual display for better recall.


  • Post visuals on side walls above eye level. Don't purposely draw attention to them, but allow students to discover them.
  • The week before students are ready to learn a new concept, post the wall display featuring a very simple rule about it. It will subconsciously embed and build foundation. How often have we thought about this? We put things up there for all year. It might be interesting to try it!!!
  • The front of room should be kept neat and simple.


  • Quiet when taking exams or mental tasks are required.
  •  Music should be used purposely and judiciously. No more than 5 - 20% of a class period.

Smell, Taste, and Breathing

  • Plants not only make the air cleaner, but they enhance the environment.
  • 4-9 plants per square foot.
  • Keep the kids hydrated.

I truly didn't scratch the surface for all the cool facts Eric Jensen touched on, but it is something to think about when we look around our rooms. Are we providing an environment conducive to learning? There are some things you can't change, such as uncomfortable chairs, but you can add a plant.

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