What if a student could improve their academic scores by 25% just by seeing more natural light? In 2012, the U.S. Department of Education reported that students who saw more daylight in the classroom saw a 20-26% increase in academic scoring rates. Natural light, noise levels, temperature, air quality and classroom orientation all affect a student’s ability to learn; if designed with the student in mind, a school’s architecture/interior design can lead to positive learning improvements.
As engineers, architects, and contractors of schools, our goal should be to remove (or prevent) any physical barriers to learning. An example of design hampering students is a classroom where the orientation of space and desks causes a student to constantly strain and twist their neck to see the teacher. Good school and classroom design should minimize distraction and maximize usability.
In this article from The University of Pittsburgh, Kelly Spewock, the academic chair of the interior design department at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh said,
“Designers must create spaces that motivate students to work to their full potential.”
Another proposed tenet of good school design is a focus on interaction with the surrounding community – creating a connection beyond the classroom walls. By involving students, teachers, parents and other community members in the design of a school, a supportive relationship is forged between the design team and end-user. Support and investment from the community could ultimately prevent (or resolve) overcrowding, teacher strikes and poor graduation rates as exemplified by a high-school in Seattle, Washington. An ArchDaily article on community-centered school design said this about the concept:
“Architects often take an introverted approach to designing schools in order to create a sense of shared identity for students. However, an extroverted approach, one which encourages a certain permeability with the community beyond the school, one that draws students and members of the community into the school just as it encourages students to interface outward, is also becoming increasingly necessary in today’s connected world.”
In addition to daylight and community involvement, color also has an impact on a student’s mood in the classroom. According to this article from School Planning & Management:
“Research shows that colors used in a classroom can stimulate learning, increase productivity and affect moods,” and “bright primary colors stimulate younger students and cooler neutrals and earth tones allow better concentration for teens and college students.”