Nature Infused Classrooms

Fleetwood Park Secondary School Mental Health & Well-being SD036 School Level Secondary Fraser Health Authority Public

We know students tend to spend a lot of time indoors and on their devices. Research has shown that this behavior leads to depression, loss of sleep, anxiety and distraction.

We spend some time outdoors during my Humanities class, and the students, without really knowing why, crave this outdoor time. Given the weather, we cannot spend as much time surrounded by nature as we would like. We want students to design an indoor learning space that has the same effect as being outside.

I want the classroom to be a place that is calming, inspiring and will enhance creative thinking. We are very interested in the First Nations ideology of being connected to the land and the effects that has on mental well being. We want students to notice and interact with the natural beauty around them and to learn how this interaction can lead to positive mental health both in school and in their personal lives.

Our inquiry question was “how does embedding an Indigenous worldview through the creation of nature focused learning spaces enhance our diverse, urban students’ emotional and social well being and what effect will it have on their creative thinking and their overall learning?”

Students embarked on an inquiry project and researched the effects that different elements of nature (plants, sound, smell, and lighting) has in the workplace. The students took part in designing and participating in a “before” survey regarding their impressions of traditional classrooms and the school environment. The “after” survey focused on the impact of nature to productivity and whether students believed that increasing the natural elements in the classrooms impacted both their learning and their overall well-being.

As well as incorporating nature into the classroom, teachers also started taking their classes outdoors more for nature walks, writing activities and silent reading.

This inquiry project helped build school community. Our anecdotal findings revealed that even small additions to an otherwise nature-starved and sterile classroom can have tremendous results.

After a walk in the local park, students reported feeling more energized and alert. When asked about the effect of plants in the classroom, students stated that it lowered their anxiety. Teachers also enjoyed the effect of nature to their environments.

We plan to continue the implementation nature-focused learning spaces within the school both in our current team’s spaces, as well as within the common areas of the school.

Students felt more connected to their teachers as it became evident that teachers authentically cared about their students. As well, this inquiry was a joint venture between teachers and students and students felt empowered because they had a voice in how the learning environment would look. They also had a voice about going outdoors more and when and how that would happen.

We plan to continue the implementation nature-focused learning spaces within the school. Both in our current team’s spaces, as well as within the common areas of the school. With further funding, we would like to help other teachers and areas throughout the school add natural elements to their spaces. We would encourage any other school to infuse their spaces with natural elements. We found that even small changes have a large impact.