Classrooms for holistic learning!
Shining Star International School, Abu Dhabi
Classrooms are now replaced by learning spaces. The purpose of the learning space is to foster engagement and encourage collaboration. In that sense, the classroom design has to be more adaptable in terms of being open to outside area as well.
A classroom that is well set produces a positive effect not only on the students but also on a teacher which then rubs it off on the students too.
The importance of classroom design cannot be undermined. Children spend a majority of their time in school and hence classrooms should be such that they can help in conducive learning. Here, Anita Singh from Shining Star International School, Abu Dhabi, shares her views on the same.
TPS: Research studies have established a direct link between the quality of learning and the classroom environment. Temperature, light, air, humidity and the like are set to have a bearing in the effectiveness of learning. Do you think enough care is taken on such issues in the design of the classrooms? If there are any standards in this regard, how are they put in place?
Anita: Classroom environment is of utmost importance for conducive learning to take place. The temperature, light, air, humidity does contribute to enhanced learning. Unfortunately, schools today are just cramped up concrete as some schools believe in quantity and not quality. Another reason may also be that schools are mushrooming in congested residential areas where open space is a scarcity. The silver lining is that these days schools have realized the importance of classroom environment for enhanced learning and are making a conscious effort to provide the best classroom environment for students. There is no one size fits all as standards, but yes a classroom should take into account the temperature, light air, humidity etc. when setting up a classroom. A classroom that is well set with these elements taken care of produces a positive effect not only on the students but also on a teacher which then rubs it off on the students too. Proper ventilation, ACs working at optimum and clean classrooms are the basics which every classroom should have. Apart from these, to bring in some fresh air, plants which are easy to maintain may be placed to liven up the room and at the same time teach our students the importance of plants in our lives.
TPS: Changing weather conditions have an impact on the learning space. Do you think the design of a school time table has to take cognizance of this issue? If so, how do you think the study of various subjects can be regulated for a given classroom?
Anita: Yes indeed the changing weather conditions have an impact on the learning space. It is not possible to concentrate neither when you are sweating profusely because of humidity nor when temperatures are freezing. Time-table designing may not be able to adapt to the changes, but alternatives can be arranged for the same. For example, it is not possible to take students out for PE classes during summers when temperature and humidity runs high. Physical Education is a must and rightly so with obesity becoming a menace in the younger generation. Instead of altering time tables, every school must ensure that an indoor play area is available for students for them go and stretch their legs and break the monotony of sitting in classrooms. During winters, swimming pools in schools should have moderated water temperature so that students enjoy a swim even when temperatures are low outside.
TPS: The children of the pre-primary and primary classes are more susceptible to the impact of weather change both collectively and individually. Do you think there should be a debate on the healthy accommodation of the children of these classes in the school? What suggestions would you give for encouraging such a debate?
Anita: Children especially the Pre-Primary and Primary classes are susceptible to the impact of weather changes. Making them aware of the precautions they can take will help protect them better. What better way than to ask students to discuss and debate on the best measures they can take to stay hale and hearty always. Effective questioning can spark a debate with students divided into groups. Throw a question on why they think it is important to stay healthy. Let them discuss and each group can present their thoughts and once finished, a rebuttal round should be done so that more ideas come up during their reasoning and finding the rationale behind the answers given by the groups.
TPS: As continuous learning leads to monotony and thus causes stress both physically, mentally and emotionally, do you think schools should provide interventions periodically through relaxation and music to reenergize the children for effective learning? The initiatives on such domains are more on records rather than in practice presently. What percentage of time in a school work schedule be allotted for such relaxation?
Anita: Sitting in a classroom at a stretch can become monotonous and make students restless. If possible within the limitations of the infrastructure of the school, students should be given some break from sitting long hours in a classroom. In my school at Shining Star International School, Abu Dhabi, we have two breaks for the lower grades. For the senior grades from 5 to 12 onwards we have work stations where students, move from one subject room to the other. This helps students as they move after every 40 minutes from one room to the other and it has been appreciated by our student body and the parents too. Initially it was difficult to manage as the whole concept was new to the students, but now it is very smooth and they feel happy about the concept.
TPS: With schools becoming articulated concrete structures, the idea of a bio-friendly environment is missing totally. What suggestions would you give to promote bio-friendly schools, especially in thickly populated urban areas?
Anita: Well, most of the schools are not modelled on Eton and Harrow. Schools have become articulated concrete structures with students in no communion with nature. Organic Farming is one idea which can be integrated with EVS /Science as a regular class. Students learn to take care of the plants which inculcates the value of caring not only for humans but also for other living things. The happiness one sees on their faces is to be seen to be believed. Hydroponics is another option to make schools bio-friendly. It has grown leaps and bounds in the recent times with many schools investing in it to add more colour and freshness in the school environment. It helped students not only to see but also feel the beauty of the lovely blooms and the greens. Students can take care of them and this in some way gives them and hands on feel about the way plants grow and their importance in our lives. We can try to create natural surroundings but living in campuses in serene surroundings and being taught in cloistered urban schools does have a difference!
Anita Singh is an educationist who firmly believes that every child is unique and has something to offer to the world. With an experience of more than 16 years of experience in the field of education, she has strived as a leader who tries to motivate and bring out the best in every team member. She firmly believes that teachers and school leaders have a huge responsibility in moulding the society and it should not only be about academics but also values and overall as a human being.