When it comes to educational spaces, every learning facility has one key goal – to bring out the best in their students.
While curriculum plays a vital role in the success of a school, the design of the interior and exterior space is often underestimated. In fact, thoughtfully designed spaces have proven to enhance a child’s productivity levels, improve communication skills, stimulate creativity and help regulate their emotions.
With children spending more than 7,800 hours at school throughout their education, it is our job to create more inspiring and dynamic spaces that nurture their innate curiosity and equip teachers with the right teaching environment.
So how can we design positive, inviting and engaging educational spaces where students and teachers can thrive?
Social interaction is key to the overall health and wellbeing of a child, which is why it is so important to consider collaborative spaces when designing a learning facility. They bring children together, encourage exploration, spark creativity and free students to communicate clearly and confidently with their peers and teachers.
To do this, the physical environment, spatial design and the technology of a learning facility must be well-planned and designed in a way where break-out rooms, social areas and collaborative corners are widely accessible.
Design-wise collaborative learning spaces should be fluid and flexible, in terms of both the physical space and how it is used by the students. Furniture should be durable, comfortable, easy to move and allow for easy transitions.
Children are incredibly receptive to the environment around them, so by creating social, collaborative spaces we enable them to harness their thirst for creative stimulation and learning.
Colour is an intrinsic component of architectural design. It influences the way in which we experience a structure, it’s an expression of a building’s identity, and it dramatically transforms the way people interact with a space.
Colour also plays a huge part on our phycological wellbeing. Dark, gloomy colours can make us feel sad or alone, bright colours such as yellow are lively and re-energizing, and green and blue hues give us a sense of calm, comfort and relaxation. If used consciously, colour can not only transform a space visually, but also transform a student’s state of mind.
When using colour within educational spaces, it’s important to take into consideration two key factors:
Creating various coloured spaces throughout the school that cater to different personality types (introverted and extroverted students) will help them feel more comfortable and reassured. In terms of the student’s age, children in lower grades will thrive in bolder and brighter environments with lots of patterns and shapes to stimulate their imagination and keep them engaged, alert and awake. For higher-grade students however, concentration and focus are key, so softer colours to help them stay productive are preferred.
Lighting has shown to not only have a positive impact on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing, but also their academic success. In fact, a study by the Heschong Mahone Group revealed that students receiving high levels of natural light throughout their day achieved test scores up to 18% higher than students receiving minimal natural light.
When architecturally designing the lighting within a learning facility, maximizing the space with natural light is best. Not only is it softer, but significantly reduces electricity consumption of a school. This can be easily done through the use of large windows and skylights in classrooms, however it is important sunlight is controlled to avoid glare on interactive whiteboards, computers and projectors.
In warmer climates like the U.A.E, it is important to take into consideration the positioning and orientation of sunlight to avoid thermal gain. Regulating classroom temperatures is vital to ensure a comfortable working environment for children.
Students should be exposed to nature as much as possible throughout their school day. Not only does it heighten their sense of exploration and adventure, but it also creates a positive, uplifting and healing environment. In fact, schools that are designed with nature in mind have a significantly reduced number of children suffering from depression, ADD and child obesity.
In a structured school environment with teachers governing every move, children need the opportunity for movement and natural learning - this is where purposefully designed spaces and playgrounds that enable children to connect with nature come in. Schools are moving away from the traditional forms and playgrounds and using more creative ways to guide play and help develop a child’s mind.
These are just a few of the factors that can influence and encourage positive learning for children. As we have been successfully designing K-12 schools for over 40 years, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of a well-studied design and the impact it will make on both the students and the success of the school. We have witnessed many situations where schools have overlooked the importance of design, but after being guided by our team were overwhelmed by the positive results.