Comfort is an important part of life; just as your body wants a relaxing, quiet place to lie down at night, the atmosphere conducive to learning can be just as specific. While there is often a fine line between the stark white walls of a sterile classroom, which demand attention, and the couch-filled den, which is too comfortable to hold attention, a learning environment is a very important consideration for the public teacher or the homeschooling parent.
According to The George Lucas Educational Foundation’s Edutopia, comfort was often the last thing on the minds of professionals back in a time when schools were designed to prepare workers for the factory. It was in the early 1900’s when John Dewey wrote, “nature has not adapted the young animal to the narrow desk, the crowded curriculum, the silent absorption of complicated facts,” a sentiment which was largely ignored until just recently.
The organization suggests that small changes can make a big difference when it comes to a learning environment, and recommends :
- Swapping out hard chairs for softer seats
- Making sure air quality is optimal to prevent allergies and asthma
- Minimizing noise pollution such as the hum of air conditioners
- Introducing areas where children can unwind, such as a school café
- Providing aesthetic outdoor areas
- Limiting overcrowded spaces
Suite101 Professional Training adds to the easy-to-change comfort list, pointing out that good lighting, theater-style seating, comfortable room temperature and visual aids all go a long way to enhance student comfort.
But comfort isn’t just about the children in public and private schools; homeschooling parents have long understood the value of providing an inviting atmosphere, one that keeps a child’s attention even though they are at home.
Mary Gleason Leonard, a mother of two who has homeschooled for 16 years, told VOXXI, “I remember when I was in school, sometimes just dying for a glass of water and not being able to get a drink or go to the bathroom until either lunchtime or the end of the day. It was so hard to learn under those circumstances.”
Leonard says that comfort in her learning environment extends past such simple physical necessities, and involves learning throughout the home, often outside when the weather is nice. Her incorporation of the natural environment is shared by Jessica Burnett, a homeschooling parent and mother of four.
“We try to include real life things that she can relate to into her school work as much as possible, such as different insects that she finds outside, shapes and colors of things that she plays on, and she even helps count out money when we go to the local Farmer’s Market. Her classroom really goes beyond our walls, and she has the ability to interact with the world around her as she learns,” Burnett told VOXXI.
The idea of a stimulating, engaging mental environment ties in with physical classroom comfort, and the Academy of Art University provides an outline for teachers on how to create an environment of trust and comfort for students.
The school focuses on teacher behavior and how it relates to comfort, instructing educators to encourage student talent; be passionate about the topic at hand; and build on student experiences.
All in all, educators are taking a new approach to encouraging students to learn, and comfort—for both teacher and student—is now an important consideration.