Why do our preschool classrooms look the way they do?
According to recent research on the topic of classroom design, colorful posters, decorations and so called “educational materials” hanging on the walls can actually do more harm than good. The teacher, the stories, their peers and the materials to create with are what deserve the children’s focus, not the posters, mobiles, or charts.
It turns out children do give busy decor a fair amount of their focus. This New York Times article, Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom, reports on a recent early childhood study which found that “children spent far more time off-task in the decorated classroom than in the plain one,” as measured by time spent gazing at the walls and scores on a picture test about stories the teacher had been telling.
A comprehensive 2012 research study published in The International Journal of Building Science and its Applications conducted an extensive analysis and assessment of 751 students across 34 classrooms in seven different schools in order to isolate the characteristics of classrooms that “maximize pupils’ achievement.”
According to this study, a well-designed classroom:
- Receives natural light
- Is designed with a quiet visual environment
- Uses warm colors on the walls and floor
- Has a large area of free space for building and diverse learning/play
- Has high-quality and purpose-designed furniture, fixtures and equipment
- Allows ease of movement
- Allows flexibility in learning varied activities
- Contains ergonomic tables and chairs
- Is modular, meaning the teacher can easily change the space configuration
While stepping into our nature based preschool classrooms in Mesa, AZ evokes feelings of warmth, simplicity and comfort, deeper analysis reveals that we have carefully designed our space to meet the criteria from above to provide children the most optimal environment for their learning and success. Open areas are filled with natural light and natural materials that emphasize function over primary-colored form. This helps young children feel comfortable and focus on what matters — their creative play with peers, their connection to the natural world and time listening to and working with their teacher.