Your Secret Tool for Creating a Mindful Study Space

By now, you've probably heard of the incredible benefits of mindfulness, both in and out of the classroom. Meditation is catching on like wildfire, and for good reason. Mindfulness improves memory, verbal reasoning and concentration, and further benefits of meditation are numerous. But you don't have to institute a meditation practice in your little one's study space. There's another way to add mindfulness to his daily learning routine!

Aside from adding a natural quality and aesthetic value to a space, aquariums can be a great tool for incorporating mindfulness into your student's study time. Studies show they can lower heart rates and blood pressure in addition to improving focus, making them not only a mindfulness tool, but a health benefit as well. 

Interestingly, it seems the more fish in an aquarium, the better these benefits! Research even shows that with more fish, mood improves! Of course, it's important to keep other factors in mind before loading down an aquarium with fish. Take time to research which fish work well together, whether you prefer a salt or freshwater tank and how many fish can comfortably live in your aquarium. You don't want to overload it!

If a fish tank or aquarium isn't in your budget or space allowance, you can use a video of fish swimming for a similar effect! Check out YouTube or other video sites for beautiful videos, or take a family field trip and make your own! 

Whether you opt for a live aquarium or a simulation, adding fish to your home learning space is a fantastic way to increase mindfulness and support your child's learning. 

5 Alternative Seating Options for Kid-Smart Spaces

By now, it's safe to say most of us are back in the swing of school. Welcome back!

If you and your students have returned to a classroom or learning space with those same old hardback chairs and linear seating arrangements, we suspect you'll find them antsy and ready to return to the outdoor life of summer sooner than later.

Coming back to a learning environment and staying still and focused can be difficult, even for adults! We've pulled together our favorite alternative options for classroom seating that can help even the most hyperactive kids maintain focus on what matters.

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Ball Chairs

You've actually got a few options with this route. If it's in the budget, these Modern Ball Chairs from Fun and Function are great additions to a savvy classroom. If you're working with fewer funds and have the space, go for plain old exercise balls! Not only will they help keep hyperactive students occupied, they'll add a healthy component to any learning space!

Standing Desks

If you're up for a classroom overhaul, try out standing desks. Newly praised across classrooms and offices alike, standing desks are becoming more and more popular as options for avoiding the perils of sitting all day. This StandDesk model is completely customizable, but there are a wealth of options based on height requirements, adjustability, budget and more. You can even invest in balance boards or gel pads as well to add that active component.

Bean Bags

What we really mean here is: give your students some floor time! As humans, most of us don't spend enough time on the floor, even though doing so has great health perks, both physically and mentally. Some of us do our most creative work on the floor! Why not add a few bean bags to your classroom to encourage students to leave their chairs and get innovative? Our selection is from Amazon, but bean bags are available all over!

Bungee Chairs

Even if you're not quite ready for bean bags, these bungee chairs are an excellent option for providing alternative seating, especially for kids who fidget. With a few of these in your learning space, you may just say goodbye to telling those students to leave others alone or quiet down! Check Amazon for plenty of options like this one

Bicycle Desks

Here's another option we're fond of if you can fully commit. Schools like Arlington, Virginia's Oakridge Elementary have seen nothing but great benefits from replacing stationary desk chairs with these bicycle versions. This seating option works on multiple levels, serving to give fidgety students an outlet and adding a bit of often much-needed physical movement to our classrooms. 

We suspect (we KNOW) that there are many more options for getting rid of those outdated desk chairs. We have faith that these five will make a difference, but we'd love to hear your ideas for making the classroom a little more accessible to all learning types! 

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. 

Natural Cleaners in the Classroom

Unless you’re living under a rock, you know about the huge push across the world to switch to greener, more sustainable cleaning practices, everywhere from homes to offices to dry cleaners and beyond.

We’re passionate about schools, so here’s a few tips on how, and why, to switch to natural cleaners in the classroom.

Standard Cleaning Products and Indoor Air Pollution

In 2009, The Environmental Working Group found that, in California alone, cleaning supplies release 32 tons of contaminants (457 different types) into the air each day.

Why Go Natural

  • Clean naturally because the air inside a space can be up to 4 to 5 times as toxic as the air outside. With a 6-7 hour school day, that’s most of a child’s day spent in a toxic atmosphere.

  • Clean naturally because it’s been proven that indoor air quality (IAQ) greatly affects a student’s ability to perform.

  • Clean naturally because a recent study found that test scores significantly increased with greater ventilation of outside air into classrooms.

  • Clean naturally to avoid the byproducts of toxic indoor air quality like:

    • Direct effect on classwork and learning

    • Increased health problems

    • Missed school days

The Fix

Like conquering bad habits, it’s easier to replace them with positive habits than it is to kick them cold turkey.  

So, take a look around your classroom and swap out harmful, traditional cleaning supplies with legitimate green options.

We’ll make it even easier for you and share a few of our favorite natural cleaning products and DIY recipes in Part 2! Stay tuned!

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!

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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!