3 Tips for Designing a Healthy, Inviting Classroom

Amy's colorful classroom, pre-typhoon.

Amy Lauren Smith

It’s been a tough week. We got hammered by Typhoon Goni, and our school experienced some pretty substantial flooding. My classroom was one of the three most affected and was covered with two inches of water.

While I’m grateful that our school didn’t undergo more damage (It could have been much, much worse!), being temporarily switched to another room has made me realize how much of an impact my classroom design has on my method of teaching.

Over the last six years, I’ve turned my classroom into a homebase, where my students feel welcome to open up, and healthy living is encouraged.

Here are three tips for doing the same in your own classroom:

1. Find some soft furnishings, and make the switch from desks to tables.

What my students like best about my classroom are the sofas and easy chairs. The kids take turns sitting on them, and when we have large group discussions, it gives us more of a living room atmosphere that makes the class feel safe to share. 

Two years ago, I moved the setup from the corner of the room to the center so that I could walk behind the kids while they are working on their laptops. While it started as a classroom management strategy, it ended up adding a coziness to my room that my students have come to love.

I was lucky that my school was able to provide used sofas for me, but you can often find low-cost options online. Sometimes people even want to give stuff away for free, so you could also place an ad asking for classroom donations.

2. Buy some large pillows or cushions.

This is an idea I inherited from the teacher before me, but it’s come to be a big part of my classroom environment. My students use the pillows when we practice meditation, and sit on them when we circle up for discussions.

One of the first things we did as we moved into our temporary classroom was grab the cushions and bring them upstairs. They added some color and gave the kids a little bit of comfort in our new space.

3. Get rid of the scary posters, and fill the walls with positive messages.

We’ve all seen them, the scare tactic posters of the past. Negative messages about the things students shouldn’t eat and shouldn’t do.

Our school’s health program is centered on positive prevention, so rather than spend money on posters of things my students should avoid, I hang colorful posters they’ve made themselves, all communicating positive messages. Instead of “No Bullying,” you’ll see “Be a Hero,” and instead of “Don’t Eat Fast Food,” you’ll see “Make Your Plate a Rainbow.”

Technology has made it easy for our students to advocate for healthy choices by creating posters, infographics, and more. Putting student work on display has made my classroom walls a tool for authentic learning.

We all want our students to get excited about health and develop a lifelong passion for wellness. One way we can do that is by creating an environment that is bright, colorful, and inviting … one that looks like healthy living should feel.

For more on classroom design and “turning lemons into lemon meringue pie,” check out these tips.