Want to know the secret to having a room full of calm, engaged students? Design a classroom with a zen-like atmosphere!
One of the easiest things you can do is open the blinds. Working in natural light has been shown to make people more productive and improve alertness or mood. This is especially important for kids, who can spend more than 40 hours per week in school buildings – more if they are participating in extra curricular activities. Studies show that kids who are exposed to more natural light during the school day have better work habits, improved academic performance, and more positive attitudes. A short recess break, or even a structured walk around the parking lot is a great way to give your students access to fresh air and light, as well as give them a mental break from the day. (Source: http://www.healthyschools.org/downloads/Daylighting.pdf)
Plants – the real ones – help brighten a classroom during the bleak winter months, and also help improve student performance. Researchers at Australia’s University of Technology compared students in classrooms with and without plants. The students with plants in their rooms had significant improvements in spelling, math, science and memory. (http://www.kidsdiscover.com/teacherresources/greenscaped-classrooms/) Plants also serve as a tool to teach responsibility. Watering and making sure the plants have enough natural light should be a rotating student job.
Short activity breaks throughout the day can help calm a wound up group of students. Yoga and mindfulness exercises are perfect for giving people a mental break, without overstimulating or exciting (think the opposite effect a rousing game of kickball can have on a classroom of kids). Diversity is key to keeping these calming activities interesting. If you use the same internet-printed sequence over and over week after week, the effects will start to be minimized as kids get bored and zone out. To keep your routine fresh over time, check out the video series offered by ZENworks Yoga Online (only $9/month gets you unlimited access to all its yoga and mindfulness videos). Visit www.zenworksyoga.com and sign up for FREE for one month!
Did you miss our blog a few weeks ago about coloring mandalas in the classroom? (http://zenworks.ny001.rndpxl.net/the-newest-trend-in-mindfulness/) The perfect rainy day calming activity can also be the perfect calming décor for your classroom!
Whether you apply these tips to your entire classroom, or designate a specific corner as a “Zen Space”, students of all ages will benefit from having a stress-free zone full of sunlight, plants, calming activity and decoration to enhance their education.
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