I recently toured a public school that I am considering for my daughter next year. I was impressed by the principal, many of the teachers I observed, and the overall philosophy of education and instruction. However, my impression was derailed by the physical learning environment. Despite being situated against a wooded hillside, the border of a lovely park with hiking trails and such, the interior classrooms were dark and dingy. Lit with sallow, flickering fluorescents, the ceiling appeared to be popcorned over and over again, with many depressing layers, with some dark, concerning spots in places. Natural light was very limited, as the rooms are all edged with a deep overhang, that deprives the classrooms of the sun, though practical for rainy days. In all the rooms I toured, the edges and corners of the space were stuffed chaotically with materials and supplies.
It surprises me that with all the attention to curriculum and philosophy, the basics of a healthy, positive interior space has been denied these children and their teachers. Upgrading the rooms with improved lighting and some basic, built-in cabinetry would alone make an enormous impact on the aesthetics of the rooms, freeing up more floorspace, and improving the instructor’s organization, allowing more time and focus to be spent where it matters, on the kids. I strongly believe an improved interior will support the kids’ comfort and focus in the classroom.
Next stop: connecting with the principal to volunteer some pro-bono hours to help make this happen! I don’t think I could allow my children to attend this school unless there was at least willingness and interest to make a change! The requisite funding could follow, but the administrative support is necessary. If I gain traction and am permitted to specify and oversee improvements, I’ll look into establishing metrics to measure and assess the types of changes. Empirically, I feel confident there would be a noticeable change, but it will be interesting to try and get some data!