Getting Savvy with your Surroundings

Subtle ways towards benefit-laden ambience in the classroom

Our environment plays powerfully on our senses and can even impact our behavior. But it’s far subtler than just making sure there is enough natural light, or hanging a few pictures about.

Take shopping malls as an example. They are masters at tweaking the ambience (albeit somewhat nefariously) to influence the emotions and behaviors of shoppers. They like to avoid windows so you easily lose track of time. They play upbeat music in supermarkets so you move faster. And classical or jazz in boutiques so you spend more time pondering a purchase you shouldn’t make. And so on.

But mucking about with our behavior doesn’t have to be sneaky or centered on emptying our credit cards. There loads of subtler and more beneficial ways to impact your emotions and behavior positively, and ways in which to do this in the classroom too. Here are a few odd things you can do in your classroom to make you and your classes even more amazing!

Got green fingers? Get some plants involved!

We know that plants are fairly useful in sustaining life as we know it, but their magical powers go far beyond just converting poison into delicious oxygen. Various studies have shown that plants can have a powerful and direct impact on our productivity, wellbeing and even concentration.

Studies conducted at the Chelsea Flower Show (where else) showed that houseplants positively affected the wellbeing of staff by 47%. Not just that, staff who made decisions while surrounded by leafy green pot plants were up to 45% more creative and 38% more productive.

Maybe that’s why so many screensavers depict idyllic fields of poppies or rolling green hills. But don’t be fooled, according to a TNO Quality of Life study, it’s all about the real deal. High resolution pictures just don’t cut it.

It’s not necessary to go out and turn your classroom into a full-fledged greenhouse, complete with musky smell of fertilizer and an army of worms making their way to the lettuce. But a pot plant or two on your desk should, according to research, give you a little boost in all the right ways!

Pamper your olfactories with the all right scents

No, we’re not talking about the strategic use of Dentyne to mask that fragrant morning breath. Smell is actually one of the body’s most powerful senses and can have a huge impact on brain activity. Surely you’ve experienced smelling a strange smell and suddenly a long lost memory from childhood comes rushing back vividly leaving you feeling like you’ve been winded by a bullet train of emotion? That’s the power of smell.

Wild claims cannot be made without a little backing from research. So, the Takasago Corporation in Japan decided to undertake studies into smells in the workplace. Again, nothing to do with Barry’s un-socked foot. Instead they looked at how different smells affect the accuracy of typists. What they found was that typists made 54% fewer errors when whiffing lemon all day, 33% fewer when exposed to jasmine and 20% fewer when they could smell lavender.

That settles it then, time to invest in that lemon infused humidifier that, for all the classical music in the world, you couldn’t bring yourself to buy.  

Tinkering with temperature

Just like lizards (did you know the most popular name for a pet lizard is Ziggy?) humans get uncharacteristically immobile when the temperature is too low, and even more sluggish when the temperature soars. Unlike lizards however, we have the power to dictate what the temperature is.

Research conducted by Cornell University found that when the temperature was increased from 68 to 77 degrees typists tend to make 44% fewer errors and were almost 150% more productive (is anyone else feeling sorry for all the poor typists that seem to be the sole target of productivity research?). But increase that temperature beyond 77 degrees and a separate study found that almost half of people are actually less productive.

See what temperature makes you feel the best in the classroom, although we’re willing to bet it’ll be somewhere in the low 70s mark.

To sum up, the secret to the perfect online teaching environment is… just a little lemon tree.