With research showing that biophilic design can improve student performance, how vital is it that, through design, we encourage students out of the classroom?
Growing up in Norway I remember ‘utetimer’ – outdoor lessons – when the weather was nice. It would be an ad-hoc thing, if the weather was nice and the temperature mild. We would bring our books and pencils to sit outside and listen, learn and get some fresh air at the same time. It was seen as the ultimate reward and kept us focused through the afternoon. Being outdoors is as natural a part of education as pencil sharpening (although now it’s probably more a case of iPad charging) and, on that note, I think it is imperative we don’t let technology bind children and teenagers to the indoors.
I believe it is essential that as designers we continually encourage the implementation of biophilia and landscape into education design. All humans possess an innate desire to be part of nature. However, this instinctive desire is often muted by our lifestyle choice and the environment we inhabit. Especially for those in cities, who are accustomed to the fast pace of life while encapsulated within a concrete jungle. It’s fundamental we address this innate human trait and integrate it as part of the incentive of promoting the wellbeing of students, staff and society as a whole.
Clearly the answer must be yes! But what the other side of the question is who maintains and pays for this and what are the costs? Is it to be added to student fees – a sort of student service charge? As with furniture in this sector, it is changing but I’m not sure to what degree and how far it will be allowed to go. With funding for schools and education expected to see an overall reduction in the next 3-5years, how can this be supported?
Our connection to nature should be an everyday, even all day experience not just a scheduled break or a special event. It can calm us down when we are stressed and uplift us when we are unhappy but to do so it must be on the classroom doorstep or within the room itself. There is no point on trying to utilising its benefits long after the event. A good educational environment is a mixture of settings and spaces not a monoculture – a place where children learn to develop their emotions and sense of self as well their academic abilities. Nature can contribute to all the basic elements of learning.
BDG architecture + design
The methodology we apply to workplaces in terms of providing the right environment for the task in hand is not unique to the workplace and educational spaces will also benefit from this approach. Children are all different and respond to their environment, which will inevitably impact in their desire and ability to learn. Just like adults, some need to be on the move, some like to be solitary whilst others thrive in lively dynamic spaces. As children grow and learn, they need to experience all types of spaces, both in the classroom and beyond, to reach their potential.
To appreciate and experience the relationship between humankind and nature, stepping outside the classroom and blurring the transition between outside and in is a vital initiative designers should be taking. Providing students with a more grounded view of the world we live in can be key basics in learning, particularly within towns and cities. Having grown up in the countryside, this was always a very natural process for me.