Three tips for creating a healthy and inviting classroom environment

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It’s been a tough week. On Monday, we got hammered by Typhoon Goni, and our school experienced some pretty substantial flooding. My classroom was one of the three most affected, and was covered with two inches of water.

While I’m grateful that our school didn’t receive more damage, and realize it could have been much, much worse, being temporarily switched to another room has made me realize how much of an impact my classroom design has on my method of teaching.

Elementary teachers are taught about designing a classroom in school, but for those of us in secondary education, it’s a process we often learn on our own.  And for PE teachers, who are tasked with teaching health, classroom design is something they might not have studied at all.

Over the last 6 years, I’ve turned my classroom into a home base, where my students feel welcome to share and healthy living is encouraged.

Here are three tips for making your health room the same:

  1. Find some soft furnishings and make the switch from desks to tables

One of the things my students like the best about my classroom are the sofas and easy chairs. The students take turns sitting on them, but when we do large group discussions, it gives us more of a living room atmosphere that makes them feel safe to share.

Two years ago, I moved the set-up from the corner of the room to the center so that I could walk behind the kids while they are working on their laptops. While it started as a classroom management strategy, it ended up adding a coziness to my room that my students have come to love. Having tables instead of desks fosters small group discussions and collaborative work on projects.

I was lucky that my school was able to provide used sofas for me, but you can often find low cost options on Craig’s List. Sometimes people want to give stuff away for free, so you could even place an ad asking for classroom donations.

  1. Buy some large pillows or cushions

This is something I inherited from the teacher before me, but they’ve come to be a big part of my classroom environment. My students use them when we practice meditation, and sit on them when we circle up for discussions.

One of the first things we did this morning as we were moving into our temporary classroom was grab the cushions and bring them upstairs. It added some color, and gave the kids a little bit of comfort in our new space.

  1. Fill the walls with positive messages and get rid of the scary posters

We’ve all seen them, the scare tactic posters of the past. Negative messages about the things students shouldn’t eat and shouldn’t do.

Our health program is centered on positive prevention, so rather than spend money on posters of things my students should avoid, I have colorful posters they’ve made themselves filled with positive messages. Instead of “No Bullying”, you’ll see “Be a Hero”, and instead of “Don’t Eat Fast Food”, you’ll see “Make Your Plate a Rainbow.”

Technology has made it easy for our students to advocate for healthy choices through creating posters, infographics and more. Putting those on display has made my classroom walls a tool for authentic learning.

We all want our students to be excited about health and develop a lifelong passion for wellness. One of the ways we can do that is by creating an environment that is bright, colorful, and inviting… one that looks like healthy living should feel.

For more about classroom design, check 6 Classroom Design Tips from Scholastic.