Why atmosphere is important in the classroom

I read this blog post from the Washington Post this morning entitled Smart design + school = health. The final quote stood out to me:

“We really focused on what kids need. What I see in that space are kids gravitating to that atmosphere because they know it’s for them, about them. Everything is tailored to their needs.”-Dina Sorensen, project designer, VMDO Architects

Too often, when an architect or designer plans classrooms, they design for best use of space at the best price. What if we designed classrooms so they didn’t feel like an institution? What if we considered the return on investment if the classroom actually helped learning?

When it comes to church classrooms, this is especially important. No child wants to come to a place where it looks like a plain, boring institution. We like restaurants that have some atmosphere and kids like a place just for them that has a little atmosphere too.

I see churches do this all the time with Vacation Bible school. They go all out to make a week special for the children. It is especially good for a church to consider how to make their place welcoming to kids throughout the year.

We gravitate towards restaurants with a nice atmosphere. Churches need to consider how much atmosphere their children’s area has.

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Resolving to Avoid?

Cartoon of a sheep and a wolf

Cartoon of a lamb and wolf. The sheep says, “€œThis year, I resolve to stay away from unnecessary risks.”

One thing I have discovered over the years is that if I make a resolution to avoid something, that temptation doesn’t necessarily go away. Resolutions just don’t work if I phrase them as a negative. I can give up soda pop as a resolution. But if I don’t replace it with something, such as water, I usually fail.

So instead of thinking about what you’re going to give up this year, think about what good habit you can replace it with.

This month, my goal is to write five hundred words a day. Hidden within that goal is to regulate how much time I spend online. If I’m going to write those words, something will have to give. So while I may not be surfing as much, this will give me a better opportunity to write my blog. I also plan to explore writing my next book.

So what is your resolution for the new year? Feel free to leave a comment and let us know.


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Trouble on the Ceiling

Cartoon of a boy on a ceiling

Cartoon of one boy staring at another boy who is upside down. The boy on the ceiling says, “Today in class, I got in trouble for doing this.”

Kids can get in trouble for the most interesting things. There have been times when outwardly I’ve said, “Stop that!” but inwardly, I was thinking, “That’s amazing! I would’ve never thought of that!” Kudos to kids and their creativity!

Cartoon: Tech Timmy

Cartoon of a man shouting from a door for help

Cartoon of a man yelling from a room. He says, “I can’t get the laptop to work with the projector. Get Timmy in the preschool class!”

Yes, I’ve been there. When in doubt, find a kid that’s grown up with the technology. They may be precocious, but they sure know their stuff!

I drew this cartoon for K! Magazine.

Are Learner Styles Bunk?

This morning, I heard a news item on how we learn. The conventional wisdom for the last few years was that each of us learn differently and teachers should cater to an individual’s learning style. The main learning styles were the following:

  • visual learner
  • auditory learner
  • tactile/kinesthetic learner
Personally, I’ve always wished one of the learning styles was “gourmet learner.” I’m sure I learn by taste, especially when it comes to chocolate chip cookies.
The premise of the article was there is no scientific evidence that there is such a thing as learner styles. I was very surprised by that, since I’ve heard many educators proclaim it as gospel. What the study suggested is that we find similarities on how our brains learn instead of the differences. After all, all hearts perform in similar ways. Why should we treat our brains differently?
That is where they lost me. It’s true that our organs operate similarly, but we all react to things differently. My stomach loves hot and spicy food. Others find that revolting. Many can’t eat the spicy stuff without paying for it later.
What I could agree on is that everyone benefits from teachers varying their style. No one responds to all lectures/all the time. We need as many of our senses engaged in different ways to keep a student’s interest and make learning fun.
So what do you think about this study? What do you do to keep learning exciting and fun?