The Ideal Learning Environment

by Michael Riversong

How to create a better place for study is becoming a great concern, especially as more parents are considering pulling their children out of unsafe public schools. These buildings were all designed to enforce a certain hierarchy among students, based mainly on age-grades. Many anthropological studies, and the results being achieved by most public school students, should be evidence enough to show that age-grading in itself simply is not a workable system. Education has many parts, including lectures, discussions, hands-on experience, drills, reading, and observation. All these things should be considered in designing learning environments.

Back in the 1960's, a few psychologists made a pronouncement that classrooms should have no windows and blank walls, so children would not be distracted. This has now been proven totally wrong. Actually, children thrive where they can have contact with the outside world and have the opportunity to observe their environment. So the first requirement is a place with windows, and an easy way to get outdoors at times. In fact, holding discussions outdoors, as the ancient Greeks and Chinese preferred, has been known to work well. A man who once served as a high school teacher on the Pacific island of Nauru, where a proper British school system had been imposed on a small native culture, gave a very interesting report several years ago. The students there were uniformly rebellious, resistant, and difficult. He said that the only day of his entire six-month term when the children were actually interested in learning, was when he took them all down to the beach and taught them in a traditional Islander manner.

Large open rooms, such as those in the old one-room schoolhouses common in America through the 1920's, work well. This allows more experienced students to help younger children, which both deepens the knowledge already learned by the older students, and lightens the burden on a teacher or class supervisor. Ideally, a teacher should be free to observe when any student is having trouble learning something, as evidenced by a lack of attention, and be able to handle the situation immediately on an individual basis. Doing drills necessary for learning difficult subjects is especially enhanced in open environments. Movable walls and partitions along with a variety of seating options are thus great ideas.

Color is an important consideration. All kinds of color schemes have been tried over the years, and there is little agreement on the ideal. Generally, you are safe with whites and off-whites. The pale institutional greens popular for a while in classrooms are definitely not suitable for the more informal environments popping up in homes and alternative schools. Yellows are good if they are not too bright. Many ancient traditions have associated that color with wisdom, so that provides a small advantage. Light beige is especially comforting. It is good to avoid too many bright colors, along with decorating schemes that seem to jiggle when you look at them. Waldorf schools generally use natural earth tones in their classrooms, and that works very well.

In any classroom for children, places for artwork should be provided. Of course any artwork should be of an inspiring nature. This helps to increase awareness of the environment, which naturally increases the desire to learn. Dark paintings need to be avoided. Some dark paintings have actually been known to compromise health, particularly some famous Renaissance-style portraits. This was documented in a book entitled Life Energy by Dr. John Diamond. He found that any weakness possessed by the subject of the portrait, could be temporarily transferred to anyone viewing it.

It is especially important to provide a space for artwork by the students themselves. This gives additional incentive for students to create more art work, and communicate more. This also increases environmental awareness, as students connect the artwork with their important peers.

An infinite variety of accessories might be provided in a study environment. Too many things, especially if they are not used often, can be distracting. The main items that absolutely need to be provided are dictionaries and references. Every classroom should have a fundamental set of children's dictionaries, with good illustrations. It is surprising how even adults sometimes don't know the definitions of basic words in their native language. Older students should also have more complex and complete dictionaries available, along with specialized dictionaries for various subjects. Computers and TV sets are all right, but make sure nobody has to sit behind one, as the backs of these machines can emit harmful electromagnetic radiation.

This brings up another important point. The study environment should be healthy. Care should be taken to avoid putting classrooms in places where there is a lot of air or electromagnetic pollution. This means classrooms should not be on busy streets, next to industrial installations, or near big powerlines. Lighting should be as close to natural as possible. This can be accomplished with windows, light wells (skylights which focus sunlight downward), and full-spectrum light fixtures.

Paying attention to a study environment can be very rewarding. Most people of all ages really do want to learn. Many who went through terms in unhealthy public schools have given up on learning, but even these people can be rehabilitated in a warm, comforting environment.



Electrmagnetic radiation: Invisible waves that come from many sources, and which might cause some health problems if not properly controlled. Most of the time this comes from appliances and electric wiring.

Environmental: Having to do with one's surroundings, especially as they affect a person.

Waldorf School: An educational system created in the 1920's in Switzerland and Germany by philosopher and spiritual teacher Rudolf Steiner. Schools using this system exist worldwide.



Basic Study Manual by L. Ron Hubbard

Life Energy by Dr. John Diamond

How Children Fail by John Holt


This article is (c) 2002 by Michael Riversong. Permission will be granted to reproduce IF REQUESTED.

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