Creating Learning Spaces That Inspire Motion

Creating Learning Spaces That Inspire Motion

Is the modern classroom meeting the needs of its students? With an increasing demand for time seated in chairs and working at desks with minimal movement, the answer is no. Research has found that human beings, including children in school, have a primal need for movement. If that need is not being met well by the classroom design, students are being starved of essential components of their learning.

Yet modern educators need organization and routine in order to maintain control. So what is the solution? The solution is a closer look at the design of the classroom, including potential changes in design that can facilitate the human’s natural need for movement.

By making small adjustments in the furnishings of the classroom, specifically, and giving students places to rest, recline, stand and sit, today’s educators can more effectively meet all of the needs of their students. Here’s a closer look at the science behind these changes, and how to implement them effectively in the modern classroom.

Humans Were Designed for Movement and Sensory Balance

In reality, the human body demands constant position changes and movement to remain physically and mentally healthy as well as well-being. The human being was also designed to have all of its senses in balance. For an individual to feel comfortable and well, and to experience the best mental performance possible, the sensory systems must take in as much natural sensory stimuli as possible. Giving the eyes the chance to feast on natural light and the nose the chance to breathe in fresh air helps the body feel better and work more efficiently.

This connectivity of the senses and overall balance highlights a concept that focuses on the sensory system and its impact on wellness. The sensory system, which distributes sensory cells throughout the body, is also called the vestibular-proprioceptive system. This particular system allows the body to utilizethe data it collects through other senses, finding the body’s position in space, the tonicity of the muscles and positioning of the joints. A healthy proprioception is essential for body awareness and good posture.

Engaging Bodies Engages Minds

This need for movement has been clearly defined, yet it’s not incorporated well into the modern classroom at all. However, student brains require movement to thrive. The brain does not exist without the body. The brain is in interaction with the body and the body with its environment. In the past, humans could not have differentiated between their physical and mental potentials while sitting, because they were not moving.

Today, young people, who are still growing and developing, will suffer multiple disorders when sitting still for extended periods. It’s not just the back that suffers, either. Increases in depression, cancer, metabolic disorders, diabetes and obesity have all been linked to sitting, because it’s not how the body was designed to operate.

Two Views, One Room

Rooms, including classrooms, can be viewed in one of two ways. First is the technical and functional aspect. Second is the effective and emotional aspect.

Technically and functionally, room design will look at the elements of the space, including the decor and design. In this element, ergonomics help reduce the risk of back problems.

However, that’s just one part of the overall picture. A focus on ergonomics alone does not create a space that provides for the entire well being of the students within the classroom. Holistic well-being is a complex physical, mental and psychological state, and this knowledge sheds more on the effective emotional side of room design. The functional aspect of the room exerts a force on the entire person, creating moods that have an affect on the learning quality, socialization and well being of the classroom’s occupants.

Why Should I Incorporate Movement in the Classroom?

Today’s students need something the traditional classroom can’t provide. A developmental and learning oriented spatial concept classroom will include furnishings that:

  •  Can be adjusted in height and consider the individual body proportions of students.
  • Meet the physical and mental need for posture changes, including ground-level work up to grade
  • Can be used flexibly, allowing for the switching between different learning methods and
  • Offers a retreat space to support the natural cycle of tension and relaxation, stress and
  • Satisfy the diversity of the composition of different students in a learning group and take into
    account individual learning needs.
  • Provide a variety of learning opportunities that allow for learning and working in both active and
    reclined sitting positions as well as standing, slouching or squatting on the floor.

As you consider the design of your classroom, consider the function of the space and the need for motion
that all of your students have. By keeping these in mind, today’s educators can create a space where
students can truly thrive.

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