The Four Corners of Harmonious Classroom Design
“To slow time down, practice enjoying the moment. It is where we spend our entire lives.” This wisdom from the I Ching describes an ideal way to live by slowing down. In the digital age, however, it’s getting more and more difficult to take this sage advice. Because of the pandemic, we are even more devoted to time spent on our devices, staring at screens with fast-paced minds. Among students, this trend has had some negative consequences. Adolescents and young adults (known as Gen Z) are struggling with mental health more than previous generations. When students return to school this fall, it will be important to consider their mental, physical, and emotional health. But educators, parents, and school designers would be remiss to discount the benefits of considering students’ spiritual development when creating spaces and schedules for student health. This doesn’t mean subscribing to a certain system of belief. It can be as simple as integrating space for silence, breathing, and reflection.
Will Le Strange is a Feng Shui consultant who has studied in China and worked personally with the Dalai Lama. He spoke at MooreCo’s Thrive Forward webinar about how to create harmonious spaces for spiritual development, peace, and well-being. From a design perspective, this doesn't have to be difficult. We like to think of it like a "square of wellness". Just remember these "four corners" for how to create educational environments where students may find harmony.
Will spoke about the importance of balancing energies in healing practices. This means understanding the value of polarities in nature and in ourselves. He used the example of Yin and Yang to demonstrate giving equal attention to both energies in design. He used MooreCo as a successful example of creating these balanced spaces for educational environments. He pointed out the benefits of providing both restful, calm spaces that create solitude and spaces that facilitate energetic collaboration.
When you look at a MooreCo classroom, you see these polarities being equally represented. With the inclusion of soft seating, privacy pods, and nooks for reading, we provide space for students to rest. Counter that with a Sharewall or Visionary Glassboard to provide expression and a space for collaboration. Balance must be represented throughout every educational and work environment for people to thrive individually and as a whole.
When discussing Feng Shui, Will pointed out that every spiritual practice has a similar concept of life energy, and that all of these ancient practices have one very specific component in common: breath. The use of breath in combination with reflection, prayer, meditation, or movement can be healing for the body and mind. We know that practices like yoga and Tai Chi have become popularized in the U.S. because of the benefits that can be felt immediately. In recent years, it’s become even more popular to integrate these practices in schools and corporate environments.
Quiet rooms, nap rooms, and meditation spaces are now becoming popular throughout work and educational spaces. When students return from virtual learning, they must be given spaces to calm and re-center themselves. MooreCo has provided furnishings that accommodate this kind of simplicity in design for years. Now with indoor and outdoor Beanies, Soft Seating Pads, and Dot Rocking Stools, creating quiet rooms becomes easy.
When asked how students can find optimism and joy in classrooms, Will said one thing that may be helpful in creating positive moods is the opportunity to move throughout the day. He said most people recognize that they feel better after working out, doing a simple yoga practice, or going for a walk. For this reason, he says that providing spaces that allow movement is crucial. Rocking chairs can create a soothing place to move, and Will pointed out the benefits of “one-legged stools” for students who have trouble focusing. MooreCo’s Hierarchy Grow Stools were designed exactly for this purpose, and have provided energetic students the opportunity to playfully release and focus on learning for years.
Will also said that for adolescent students, self-expression is crucial. He said that having furniture that can be easily moved to create a play or presentation space in the room will provide a sense of freedom. For this, we recommend the AKT tables and the Enroll Chairs, which facilitate movement and can be easily moved out of the way to provide a creative, empty floor space for movement.
One of the most important takeaways from Will’s presentation is the value of natural elements in each space. He said kids will get easily distracted and look out windows when they are bored, admiring the outdoors and daydreaming. But it is possible to include these elements within classrooms and throughout educational curriculum to maintain student engagement and well-being. It’s about creating patterns that mimic nature and provide a sense of ease and flow. Spirals, wavy shapes, blue and green tones, and the use of wood are extremely are all visual cues found in nature. A Wavy Rectangle Desk, winding bookshelf, or curved soft-seat couch will mimic patterns those patterns and help student reconnect to the natural world.
If students are prone to search outside for entertainment, bring the window of the world to them. Integrative smart boards like the i3Sixty can be used to open doors to nature. Presentations on wildlife, human anatomy, or geography become as clear and accessible as looking out a window. Encourage their imaginations and ability to dream by bringing the outdoors in.
We’re Here to Help
At MooreCo, we are devoted to creating environments where everyone can thrive. As schools begin to recover from the pandemic, there is a great opportunity to create environments that are engaging and focus on well-being. Download our ESSER Funds Guide for more information on designing for new learning spaces, and check out any sessions you may have missed from our Thrive Forward webinar to learn more about designing with human development in mind. We’re here to help!