Should we have plants in the classroom?
The short answer is YES!
Obviously introducing plants into any environment immediately improves the aesthetic, you only have to scroll Instagram or pinterest to see the growing affection for house plants as interior décor.
But we’re hugely underestimating their potential in a learning environment if we assume that’s where their impact ends.
Most of us will appreciate the connection between houseplants and air purity, as we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, they are doing the exact reverse. Lowering the levels of carbon dioxide in a room whilst increasing the levels of oxygen.
When you’re told that plants improve concentration levels, this is why! They are literally filling your lungs with fresh, clean air, rather than stale, recycled and full of carbon dioxide.
The common signs of symptoms of poor indoor air quality are; headaches and fatigue, eye, nose and throat irritation, worsening allergy or asthma symptoms, even dizziness and nausea.
Even mild symptoms aren’t conducive to an appropriate learning environment, either for teachers or students.
Extensive research by NASA has revealed that houseplants can remove up to 87 per cent of air toxin in 24 hours.
Studies undertaken at the Chelsea Flower show by the University of Exeter have shown that plants
- boost your mood — increasing well-being by 47% (making them perfect for a learning environment, University or School)
- Increase creativity by 45%
- improve concentration and productivity (by up to 15 percent),
We’re building quite an extensive list of physiological benefits for having a few houseplants on hand in the classroom, so as well as reducing mental fatigue and aiding concentration what else are they good for?
We know that a class of 30+ students is a recipe for high noise levels, at least some of the time. The right choice of plant can also help to reduce noise levels by anything up to five decibels (I’m presuming any teachers reading this will be immediately researching “best plants for noise reduction”)
Don’t worry, I’ve linked it here https://bettersoundproofing.com/best-sound-absorbing-indoor-plants/
There are however some considerations to make before you purchase your plants, particularly if you are teaching younger children, namely to make sure they’re non toxic. I’m hopeful that secondary or university students will instinctively know not to eat the house plants… but might be better to be safe than sorry!
In hospitality, rooms that include elements of biophilic design and planting gain more positive reviews and have more bookings, as an indication of the natural pull people have towards nature and living things. So it should follow then that classrooms with plants and greenery have a similar appeal to students and teachers alike.
A Taiwanese junior high experimented with the presence of house plants in classrooms and reported better behaviour and less absenteeism (SAGE Journal)
According to the University of Exeter, the mere presence of plants has been proven to provide a sense of calm and wellbeing.
The University of Michigan claims they can even increase short term memory, again something that will create the most effective learning environment.
The feeling of well-being that planting creates is reciprocal between students and teachers. There is a new understanding that by implementing biophilic principles into your work environments, you are appealing to an innate human need to be around nature. It’s exciting to see the impact that these relatively low maintenance features can have on education and on our ability to learn and retain information.