3 Homework and Study Space Must-Haves

Now that your little genius is back to school and bringing home assignments, it's time to check in on the space you've set aside for completing them!

There are a number of important aspects to creating an effective at-home study space, but while the perfect colors and cute accessories are ultimately optional, these three factors aren't.

 

Lighting

Good lighting is important for obvious reasons, to reduce eye-strain and ensure that your child can see clearly, but it also serves to create a sense of openness, relieving stress and increasing concentration levels. Keep these tips in mind when selecting and arranging lighting for your little one's study space:

- Avoid placing the desk directly in front of a window, as this can be a distraction. Instead, arrange your student's desk so that natural sunlight streams in from the side.

- Window or not, position the desk to face towards the inside of the room, rather than a wall. Facing the wall while working or studying (or anytime, really) can create a sense of closure that isn't conducive to studying.

- Lighting is best when it comes from above. For this reason, avoid short table lamps and aim for taller floor lamps or ceiling installations. 

- Be sure to balance natural and artificial light, as the latter can cause sleepiness, which definitely won't get the homework done!

- If you have limited natural lighting, consider alternative options like cream colored paints, lighting that faces up and venetian blinds. 

 

Sound

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Another important sense to keep in mind in a study space is hearing. External sounds and noises can have an effect on your genius's ability to concentrate and grasp lessons, so remember this:

- Silence is usually best for smaller children when doing schoolwork.

- If your little learner does want music, opt for classical music or easy listening.

- Avoid using headphones, as this can be harder to tune out for focusing purposes. 

- Consider using the sounds of nature as background noise. Studies show this reduces tension and stress. 

 

Temperature

 

Not surprisingly, productivity can drop or increase depending on temperature. This means it's important to get it just right in your student's study space. These guidelines should help make sure of that:

- If possible, keep the temperature at 77. It's the ideal focusing temperature according to studies. 

- Avoid placing your little one's desk near the heater or air conditioner.

- If adjusting the temperature isn't possible, be sure to keep sweaters, blankets or fans nearby to keep your student at an optimal temperature for learning.

6 Inspirational Quotes for Packing Up Your Classroom

It's finally the end of the year, and if we know teachers, we know you're ready to pack up and head home for the summer. Like, SO ready. This part of the year can be particularly important, because if you pack up the right way, starting off next year on the right foot is a breeze. Last year's Kid-Smart expert, Tanya Kolb, has tips on how to get organized before next year, and you can check them out here. In the meantime, here's a little organizing inspiration to get you through these last few days before the glorious summer. 

Real Kid-Smart Spaces: Immersive Suite

Imagine if every time you needed to learn a lesson or skill, you were able to immerse yourself in that environment and live the experience as you learned it. Our newest Real Kid-Smart expert does just that for each of the children in her 2nd grade class. Take a peek inside her inspiring methods!

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Classroom

Name: Sian Thornton

School, City & State: Holy Family Catholic Primary School, Surrey, United Kingdom

Years Teaching: 4 Years

Grades: 2nd Grade/Year 2 (6-7 year olds)

 

In 2013, the school introduced the innovative concept of an Immersive Suite and a whole new style of learning. 

 

WHAT IS AN IMMERSIVE SUITE, AND HOW DOES IT WORK? 

The Immersive Suite provides children with an opportunity to learn in a completely different way, in an exciting environment that plays with the standard classroom space.

Lessons start off by immersing the children in the environment that the teacher has set up using computer-driven imagery, visuals and audio to create an interactive, sensory learning experience.  

Children are stimulated by the images, colours, sights and sounds of the world, offering a beautiful enhancement to cross-curricular learning. 

They truly forget that they are in school and not, for example, on board a flight to South America. 

HOW HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE ENHANCED THE LEARNING EXPERIENCE FOR YOUR CHILDREN?

Children can now go to the moon with Neil Armstrong, travel back in time to a Victorian workhouse, explore the ocean with sea creatures - the possibilities are quite literally endless. 

These dynamic lessons impact students’ work and enable significant progress. Children who are usually difficult to motivate come alive in the suite. 

The Immersive Suite has also provided some fantastic lessons for children with Special Educational Needs, who benefit from its sensory nature. We invite children in from a local Special School each week and it is delightful to see their reactions to their environment. 

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Suite

WHAT HAS THE IMMERSIVE SUITE TAUGHT YOU ABOUT THE TEACHING EXPERIENCE, AND HOW HAVE YOU ADAPTED YOUR METHODS TO THIS ALTERNATIVE SPACE?

Seeing the children respond so positively to a space that contrasts with the traditional, restrictive classroom environment has made me change my whole classroom! 

Each topic we cover now has a dedicated area in the classroom where children can go to immerse themselves. 

When we learn about the moon landing. I spend an evening with a colleague covering the whole area in aluminum foil, and it becomes a space station. 

When we learn about The Great Fire of London the area is transformed into Pudding Lane Bakery. They pretend to run the bakery, and especially like the drama they can create when they pretend it has caught on fire! 

Best of all the children are more interested in the topics and often come into school with extra research to share and display in the area. 

THERE ARE THREE PARTS TO THE KID-SMART SPACES PHILOSOPHY: 

  • The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.  
     
  • Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success.  
     
  • Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.  

WHICH RESONATES WITH YOU MOST, AND HOW DO YOU SHARE IT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE?

I believe that ‘every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life’ is a great philosophy to have. 

As a teacher, you get to know students so well, and you are made aware of those whose home lives are far from beautiful. Creating a comforting, exciting, positive environment for these children is essential to ensure that they are able to spend a significant portion of their day in a happy place. 

A positive learning environment makes a positive learner, and if you can foster that in a child with some tinfoil and a cardboard space rocket then you absolutely should!

Kid-Smart Spaces Immersive Suite

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST SPACIAL CHALLENGE, AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME OR MITIGATE IT? 

It’s finding the ways to fit in the ‘essentials’ as well as the extra, exciting things to my classroom – like the cardboard boxes that have been made in to a bakery oven or an Egyptian pyramid!

I’m learning to manage clutter better, but as long as I have a keen eye for creative learning then I think it’ll always be a work in progress.

WHAT'S THE NUMBER ONE LESSON OR TIP YOU'D LIKE TO PASS ALONG TO FELLOW EDUCATORS ABOUT CREATING A KID-SMART CLASSROOM?

Keep it budget friendly! I (and every other teacher I know) could spend a fortune of their own money on things for their classroom, and I definitely have over the years. 

Working with a low budget can make it difficult to buy lots of new and exciting things for your learning environment, but there are ways around it. Thrift shops or eBay…there are so many ways to make your classroom environment more exciting without breaking the bank. 

Decide to make it a part of your teaching style and you won’t ever go back to a ‘normal’ classroom again!

Keep checking back for our next interview with Real Kid-Smart Spaces, and if you know an amazing mom or teacher, let us know! 

3 Study Space Colors to Help Kids Concentrate

Color matters, in most cases, and especially when it comes to creating a perfect space for your little ones to learn. Go too bright, and you may find your student suffering from an inability to concentrate. Too light, and you could end up with a frequent napper on your hands. Check out these tips for striking the perfect balance, with the perfect colors.

In general when considering paint colors for learning spaces, medium to light shades of colors are best so as not to overwhelm. Striking that ideal balance between engaging and relaxing is important, so lighter colors can be accompanied by accents of deeper shades via art, furniture and decor.

These top colors work best for concentration, critical thinking, focus, analytical skills, and retention. They’ll all do the trick, but we prefer them in this order

Blue

Blue lowers blood pressure and provides a calming space for excellent focus and concentration.

Green

Green is linked to nature and growth and elicits positive reactions, making it a great option for a learning space.

Yellow

Yellow is reminiscent of sunshine and associated with happiness. Yellow is energizing and can encourage communication and discussion, making it an excellent color for moving spaces, like hallways, play areas, cafeterias or gymnasiums. In paler shades, yellow is comforting and warm and makes a good option for learning spaces as well.

Real Kid-Smart Spaces: Selin Gasa

If you think it's tough to organize a classroom or playroom, imagine the challenge for a traveling ArtBus that accommodates hundreds of children. That's what Selin Gasa, our next Real Kid-Smart expert, deals with regularly. Check out why and how she inspires us!

Name: Selin Gasa

School City & State: We operate in Simi Valley, CA and surrounding areas. We have a 35 miles limit but bend that rule every now and then. 

Age Range: We serve all ages! But mostly 4 - 12 year olds.

 

HOW DID THE IDEA FOR ARTBUS ARISE?

My husband and I were trying to come up with something to add to our party business. Something different and fun. I thought of food trucks and video game trucks... but I'm more into art, and creating things... and I think the kiddos need more art! So I thought it would be pretty cool to convert an old school bus into an art studio. I mentioned it to my husband and he made it all happen.

Bus Interior.jpg

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE ART PROJECTS OR ACTIVITIES YOU DO ON THE BUS?

  • Kids paint the actual bus! They love that. The bus is white and they get to paint on it with washable paints.

  • We do a lot of eco-crafts... We turn recycled material into works of art!

  • Some parties we have a main project like tie-dying or painting ceramics, etc.

  • We also have a mirror in there so they can do face art with the face crayons we provide, hair coloring with hair chalk and tattoos.

HOW DO YOU STAY ORGANIZED WHILE KIDS USE THE SPACE?

It's chaos during a party! Glitter and paint everywhere! But we try to contain it the best we can and try to clean up as they create. All art supplies are in bins.. pipe cleaners, poms, glitter, etc. Kids paint and do their projects on trays. For tie-dye parties we prep little tie-dye stations... We have bins with cookie cooling racks on top and have them squirt dye on shirts or bags on top of those.

HOW DO YOU ORGANIZE ONCE THEY LEAVE?

We have a whole lot of drawer bins and storage containers to keep things organized. Once they leave we just collect all the left over art materials and put them back in their proper bins. For the main projects, we separate them in large clear storage containers. We have a birdhouse project container, superhero container, fairy container, ninja turtles container... Every project has it's own. For example, for the fairy project we have 4 clear shoe box containers (Jewels/stick ons, bows/ribbons, flowers and beads) and we put those in a large container with the wings and crowns.

For all the dirty stuff like used brushes, trays and smocks... we pack them up and take them home to be washed.

THERE ARE 3 ELEMENTS TO OUR PHILOSOPHY HERE AT KID-SMART SPACES:

  • The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.

  • Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success. 

  • Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.

CHOOSE THE ONE THAT RESONATES WITH YOU MOST AND TELL US HOW YOU INCORPORATE/SHARE THAT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE.

Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success... We keep things as organized as possible so the kiddos have an easier time creating. We try to give them a happy stress free environment.

WHAT'S THE NUMBER ONE LESSON OR TIP YOU'D LIKE TO PASS ALONG TO READERS ABOUT CREATING A KID-SMART SPACE?

Less mess = Less stress!!! Which I know can be difficult to do with kids... But if each thing has a home, clean up is much easier. Use those containers!

I have always been quite messy. I leave things laying around and throw my supplies just anywhere and everywhere. My husband is the awesome organized one. It actually used to annoy me. Haha. But I appreciate it now. I realized I'm more relaxed and can think straighter when my things are organized.

Keep checking back for our next interview with Real Kid-Smart Spaces, and if you know an amazing mom or teacher, let us know! 

3 Tips for Designing a Multi-Purpose School Space

I was once tasked with re-designing a school space that housed both the teacher break room and a student tutoring intervention space. (Teacher break, huh?) The main problem was obviously the two very divergent needs taking place in one shared - and small - area. Account for sub-activities (like coffee/tea/food preparation, eating, sink use, socializing, testing and instruction), and we're actually talking about seven or eight different activities, all in one space.  Here's what I learned from that design challenge:

Divide the Space By Individual or Grouped Activities  

In this case, the space was small enough that it required grouping related activities together.  We split the room into halves, based on the primary functions and then split each space again by micro-activities.

Think Vertically

Too often we plan with only the floor space in mind.  Using walls maximizes and multiplies the amount of useable space you have to work with.  Whether you use walls for storage, use them to display art, or just let the teachers climb them, when possible, take it all the way to the ceiling for a strong visual statement and more space.

Make Use of Corners

Use corners to organize the space. Corners are a natural starting point to design our thoughts and objects.  Creating activity centers in the corners works as an easy way for students to identify tasks areas and as a common sense way to keep organized. Activity centers also double the space for the tasks.

How to Design a Child's Room for a Good Night's Sleep: Part 1

Help your little one get quality R&R with these tips:

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Lighting

Dim Those Lights!

Lights are one of the body’s biggest cues that it’s time to sleep, so in the hours leading up to bedtime, begin dimming lights. As bedtime nears, switch off as many lights as possible to signify it’s time for sleep.

Switch Nightlight Bulbs

If your child needs a nightlight or uses the restroom often, use warm, lower light bulbs.

Blackout the Natural Light

A bare window or one covered with sheer drapes is likely to wake children up as the sun rises, often before they’re ready. Opt for heavy drapes, or supplement sheer daytime drapes with heavier nighttime panels.

Layout

Section Off the Room

Make a clear delineation between the activity area (play and work) and sleep area. Just like adults, if children are accustomed to using their beds as seating or play space during the day, it’s more difficult to switch off and get to sleep in that same space. Help your child understand that the bed is for sleeping by placing desks, chairs and toy boxes in other areas of the room.

Apply This Awesome Feng Shui Tip

Whether or not you believe in feng shui adjustments, the idea of the Commanding Position is scientifically helpful because it helps to keep the fight or flight response at bay.  

Commanding Position: The bed is facing the door, but is not directly in line with it, and located as far from the door as possible, ideally diagonally across the room.  

When you can’t see what may be coming at you (think monsters for your tiny frightened counterparts), the body remains in a constant state of stress, even if you can’t feel it!

Electronics

Unplug!

It’s becoming more and more common knowledge that using electronics before bedtime contributes to lower quality sleep.

Limit EMF’s

It may be tempting to lull your little one to sleep with her favorite show, but ultimately, she’s better off drifting to sleep on her own in a quiet room devoid of harmful EMFs. Not only will this ensure quality sleep, it will help your little one learn to unplug in the long run, which can be as priceless as meditation and other forms of relaxation and mindfulness.

EMF: The acronym for “electronic and magnetic fields,” the invisible waves of energy produced by electronic and magnetic devices. Basically, plugged in and turned on.

Blue Lights & Kids’ Body Clocks

Circadian rhythms - “the body clock” - are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism's environment. They are found in animals, plants, tiny microbes and in your little one. While light of any kind can suppress the secretion of melatonin, blue light does so more powerfully. A Harvard study found that blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much.

Real Kid-Smart Spaces: Tanya Kolb

Kid-Smart Spaces is launching a new series featuring moms and teachers from across the nation who inspire us every day to keep doing what we do. First up, Tanya Kolb from Brooklyn, NY!

Teachers Tips Interview Header

Name: Tanya Kolb

School City & State: Brooklyn, NY

Years teaching: 14 years

grades: Pre-k, K, & 1st grade


IT ONLY TAKES YOU 1 TO 2 HOURS TO SET UP YOUR CLASSROOM AT THE START OF THE YEAR. WHAT'S YOUR SECRET?

What I do at the end of school year sets me up for back to school, but technically I have two secrets: Purging and Organizing.

4 Steps to My Quick Classroom Set Up:

  1. Create Ideal Layout - During the school year I experiment constantly with my classroom furniture, moving things around until the space is laid out just the way I like it.  

  2. Document It - Once it looks the way I want it to, I take section by section photos of the room from different angles (from front looking back, from back looking front, etc.).  I also photograph each bulletin board and each wall.  Referring to these photos when I’m setting up the room makes set up move quickly.

  3. Purge Before You Pack - Teachers are natural hoarders! We don’t like to waste things, because we know how valuable and costly supplies are, but our downfall is, "I might use it next year" and finding things another teacher made and thinking, “I can totally use that.” Those are traps!  In reality, if we didn’t make it, we have no attachment to it and little or no memory of its use. If you didn't use it this year and if you didn't make it - throw it away! I know so many teachers who have boxes but don’t even know the contents inside.

    My purging trick is to pack the stuff I don’t currently use in a separate box.  At the end of the year, if I still haven’t used it, I throw it out. 

  4. Pack It Right - I limit myself to 6 to 8 boxes, but no matter the number you have, the key is to pack and label only items that belong together in the areas where they live in the classroom.  It can be as easy as “Front of the room - Left Half”  

THERE ARE 3 PARTS TO THE KID-SMART SPACES PHILOSOPHY, WHICH RESONATES WITH YOU MOST, AND HOW DO YOU SHARE IT IN YOUR CLASSROOM ROUTINE? 

  • The places children learn in shape them, and help them shape the world.  

  • Space, light and movement are integral to wellness and success.  

  • Every child deserves beauty and inspiration in their daily life.  

The first one is most meaningful to me.  Children are not necessarily organized by nature, but they mimic what they see.  They know how important organization is for me, so they follow suit and mimicry becomes habit.  Our habits shape their habits.  For me, I think creating surroundings they can value helps students value themselves and hold themselves to higher standards.

WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST SPATIAL CHALLENGE AND HOW DO YOU OVERCOME IT?

This year I’m very lucky to have a large classroom but in the past, struggling in smaller classrooms, I found excess furniture got in the way of activities and wasn't aesthetically pleasing.  Flow is important, so I always opt to remove any furniture that takes away from the space when possible.

WHAT'S YOUR #1 LESSON OR TIP FOR CREATING A KID-SMART CLASSROOM YOU'D LIKE TO SHARE WITH FELLOW TEACHERS READING THIS?

Get rid of the stuff!  That goes for bulletin boards too.  If there’s too much to look at, the intention is lost on the kids.  Minimize the physical and visual clutter.

Keep checking back for our next interview with Real Kid-Smart Spaces, and if you know an amazing mom or teacher, let us know! 

Help! My Classroom is Too Small

It’s easy to offer organization and design tips when there’s a large classroom space to work with.  Things get really challenging when teachers need to fit everything into small classrooms. Though there’s not much we can offer by way of fixing social issues like overcrowding or cost per square foot, there are a few basic ways to keep your small classroom organized:

image credit: pixabay

Minimize Visual Noise

In graphic design the amount of white-space (or empty space) is as important to the viewer as the subject itself.  That’s because the image, in its entirety, affects the viewers' ability to process what they are seeing.  Think of your classroom walls as a blank canvas. If the canvas is covered with too many subjects (in this case instructional tools and classroom decorations) it all becomes visual noise. Remember that every item placed in the room competes for your students attention, so display wisely.

Swap It Out

How can you avoid over-stimulation and limit the information students focus on when there’s so much they need to learn? One way to keep visuals from competing for attention is to swap them out as needed.  Use magnetic whiteboards, magnetic paint, velcro or colored paper to make your decorations or instructional tools interchangeable. This allows you to better manage the room's focal points and, by extension, the focus of your students.

Keep Your Shelves Concealed

Concealed shelving is an excellent way to minimize the clutter that shrinks a space.  Unless they are holding books or house items that require constant access, shelves should hide the items they store. Doors are ideal, but if closed cabinets can’t be managed, use alternatives like curtains, table skirts or storage bins to hide the clutter.

Create Activity Zones and Define Them Visually

“A place for everything and everything in its place.” That age old adage never gets old, especially where classrooms are concerned. The best way to maximize the space you have is to use it wisely. Give each activity its own zone. In small classrooms, several activities may need to share a zone.  In those cases, the tips above (like concealed storage, swapping items out, storage bins) are especially key. That way, once one activity has ended, the zone can easily be packed up, prepped and transformed for the next use.

What methods do you use to maximize the space and effectiveness of your small classroom? We'd love to hear in the comments! 

Your Child's Brain on Good Design

As adult guides, it is our responsibility to create nurturing, inspiring learning environments that foster academic achievement and creativity. Places where students can thrive and discover the special skills and gifts they’ll someday use to make meaningful contributions to the world.

Good Classroom Design Brains

Design - Schools Vs. Offices

There's so much focus on office design but considering how much more impressionable a child’s brain is compared to an adult’s (neuroscientists use the term “plastic”) it's shocking how little we're discussing school design.  If it’s already widely accepted that office design greatly impacts the productivity, emotional state, and physical health of adult employees, it stands to reason that the relationship between children and design is even more critical.  More and more experts are listing school design as a key factor in a student’s success, and rightfully so.  Genes provide a blueprint, but the construction of a child’s brain is formed by environment and experience.  

School Design Impact - UK Study

Researchers out of the United Kingdom found that classroom architecture and design significantly affected academic performance: Environmental factors studied affected 73 percent of the changes in student scores. The year-long study suggests that a school's physical design can improve or worsen children's academic performance by as much as 25 percent in early years.

Clutter Impact - Princeton Study

Another study, by the neuroscientists at Princeton University, found that when parents had to deal with their belongings their stress hormones spiked. Similar to what multitasking does to the brain, physical clutter overloads the senses, causes stress, and impairs the ability to think creatively.  Children then, suffer doubly. Once from their own battle to keep focused in cluttered spaces, and again when the parents and educators they rely on for guidance under-perform due to disorganization.

Even without research to back it up it seems an obvious conclusion that children’s surroundings can have a negative impact on their ability to focus and process information.  But the research does exist - and as interest in school design and tactile, design-based learning increases, so do the number of studies. They paint a clear picture: alongside key factors like home life, inspired teachers and school location, a child’s success is also linked to the spaces where they learn.