Bringing nature into our classrooms

August 17, 2020

It seems that the neutral classroom theme is here to stay, and why shouldn’t it? Neutralising busy classroom colours has been proven to have a calming effect on children and allows their work to shine on our displays. Implementing soft furnishings and softer lighting enables us to physically represent our choice to nurture these young minds and put them at the centre of learning.

But what if we told you providing a natural classroom environment is the next step up from the neutral theme . . .

Simply being in an all natural environment has been proven to have positive effects on children’s working memory, to refresh our minds by changing the frequency of our brainwaves and also improve children’s abilities to focus. For maximum benefits, this requires us to be outdoors and interacting within a natural space.

So whilst we are advocates for outdoor learning, we are also teachers and therefore we recognise that being outdoors in a natural environment 100% of the time is not an achievable goal. But similar benefits could be brought to teachers by infusing their classroom environments with nature . . .

Read on to find how to bring nature into your classroom and create an environment that will not only nurture your children but potentially enhance their learning.

Leave the plastic plants on the shop shelf

The most obvious way to naturalise your classroom is to add greenery. Teachers are incredibly busy people, which means we often write off being able to keep real plants alive and reach for their plastic replicas instead.

Plastic plants however do not reap the same rewards. They do not release the additional oxygen to your classroom, they don’t teach your children how to care for another living thing and they don’t trigger the same benefits on the brain mentioned before.

The solution is to choose indoor plants that are low maintenance. Both Hollie & Jenny kept plants successfully in their classrooms for years, the key is to know which ones to go for!

When choosing a plant, always read the label to ensure that they are non-toxic. Many exotic and succulent plants are, which means they are dangerous if ingested and we all know that one child that’s likely to take a nibble!

Find out more about which plants are suitable for classrooms in our free guide at the end of this blog post!

Another recent trend has been to adorn displays with plastic ivy. Implementing a natural alternative will bring a much more natural colour & texture. We would suggest using dried eucalyptus as a plastic-free alternative, which not only looks fantastic but smells great too!

We purchased ours from Tweedle Floral Design and loved the look it gave our display. Kept away from radiators and direct sunlight, this will stay green and provide a touch of real nature to your displays. Plus it smells fantastic!

If you would like some for your own displays contact Tweedle Floral Design on Instagram and quote ‘AlfrescoEuc’. The dried eucalyptus for your display is available for £22.50 (including UK delivery) and includes a complimentary bunch of lavender for your desk!

(Just to note the leaves are toxic if eaten, so if you have young children be sure to place out of arms reach.)

Implement nature into your displays

Using natural resources to create your displays may take a little bit of creative thinking but is certainly less time consuming than printing and laminating! Plus lots can be sourced freely!

If you love to frame children’s work you could use sticks, twine and a little bit of paint (or leave it natural!) to create frames ready to highlight their fantastic work. You could even make these with the children as a transition activity to promote ownership and a sense of pride.

Build a collection of natural loose parts for manipulatives

Providing natural loose parts instead of counters and multi-link provides the children with a sensory experience alongside their learning (all plastic feels the same).

Even just using pine cones in your maths lessons provides your children with a natural element to physically touch and connect with, not to mention it often gets the children much more excited to solve those mathematical problems.

Here’s a selection of our favourite natural loose parts to use

We also find they are an easy resource to transport outdoors for learning. If you would like to know more about how to utilise natural loose parts to take the curriculum outdoors take a look at our KS1 Planning Hub! Nearly all of our lesson plans demonstrate how you could use them.

A secondary benefit to implementing real plants, embracing nature on our displays and building a collection of natural loose parts is that we also reduce our single-use plastic and start to look for ways to reuse items we already have access to.

In bringing in a little nature into our rooms we begin to recognise the value of its impact on us & our children. In knowing its value, we can start to become a little more conscious of our impact on nature, and so the cycle continues!

For even more natural classroom inspiration and advice on creating more eco-friendly displays download our FREE guide.

Let us know if you decide to embrace a natural classroom. Tag us on social media, we’d love to see how you’re embracing it!