Creating a Positive Learning Environment

We respond to the environment in which we find ourselves in a variety of ways that affect our learning. When children are in a calm, peaceful environment with aspects of nature around them, it builds brain architecture and enables them to learn more. We are barraged with information and emotion all of the time and our brain is trying to sort things out and figure out how to put all of that in place. And in order to be able to learn, we need a certain amount of routine and consistency and calm so that our brain can focus on what’s important and not have to focus on everything that is new and engaging all at the same time. The environment has a large impact on student learning. We want school to be a safe, welcoming place where kids want to come here every day.  They could be coming in in the morning with lots of different emotions– We’re so glad that you’re here — that we want to help mitigate so that they feel safe and secure at school.  Good morning, Jolene. We’re glad you’re here. I will tell you what’s happening this morning.

We have pancakes for breakfast and pears. It’s very important that school be a reliable, consistent routine place where you know what to count on, where things are somewhat predictable. Not so much that they become boring but so much that they give you that calm feeling that I know what it’s about, I know how to participate. And that actually opens up the opportunity for more learning.  So some of the ways that we do that are creating a calm environment where breakfast is ready for them. We also include a lot of natural elements in our classrooms. We have lots of plants, which keeps the air purified. We use essential oils to help students have calm, relaxed bodies. People want to come into a room that smells great. And so, we turn that on in the morning before they get here and that’s part of creating that welcoming environment. Meeting students’ needs for, like, releasing physical energy is important. Making sure that kids’ bodies feel good is a really important step to making sure they’re brains are in a good place for learning. Water’s available to all of our students all the time. They all get breakfast.

They all get lunch. They’re going to movement class. They’re having time outside in the backyard, doing a lot of gross motor play so that their bodies are getting what they need. We also know now that the environment matters greatly to the evolution of individual human beings. And we can create environments that are productive, that have lots of opportunities for exploration and learning, because that’s how human beings grow their brains, as well as grow their knowledge. We want them to be engaged and to love it and to not want to go home. So we have incredible opportunities and provocations at centers for them to have agency and use their hands, create, iterate on their creations, fail, and keep trying. And part of that helps keep them both engaged and, at the end of the day, man, school is really fun. I can’t wait to come back tomorrow. That’s the feeling that we want the students to have.

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