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Biophilic Theory and its Impacts on Learning Spaces and Student Success

People have always turned to nature to bring tranquility to their spaces, and benefit from it as a means for stress reduction. We have always known that our health and well-being are impacted by our environment and the presence of nature has contributed towards opportunities for mental restoration. Biophilic learning spaces that incorporate nature aid in mental restoration, during which the high–level cognitive functions of students can recharge. This ensures a greater ability to perform focused tasks as compared to students with fatigued cognitive resources. 

Biophilic Designs and Classrooms or Biophilic Learning Spaces

A study named ‘The Impact of Biophilic Learning Spaces on Student Success’ was conducted for a middle school math class at a public charter school in West Baltimore to examine the extent to which design of the physical learning environment, enhanced with biophilic design, contributes to stress reduction among students and improves learning outcomes. In the study, the biophilic classroom was enhanced by planting a garden outside the classroom window, replacing opaque blinds with motorized shades operated by a solar cell, and the classrooms featured biomorphic forms and images for learning.

While the garden view attracted student gazes from time to time providing a short break from concentration, the roller shades ensured ever-present diffuse sunlight. This resulted in less stress, higher test scores, and increased positivity among students. It was also found that students were able to concentrate better, and it was easier to focus in the biophilic learning space than in other classrooms. 

Advantages of Biophilic Design Patterns in Classrooms

Classrooms can become extremely stressful – providing a space that is soothing and welcoming can go a long way in helping students with their overall well-being. Visual connection with nature, which is one of the biggest aspects of a biophilic design, is known to improve mental engagement and attentiveness and positively impact attitude and overall happiness. Non-visual connection with nature has been shown to positively impact cognitive performance, mental health, and tranquillity.

Subtle adjustments in air temperature and airflow in learning spaces can positively impact comfort, well-being, productivity, and concentration. Water features in a learning environment can improve concentration and memory restoration whereas dynamic and diffuse light increases visual comfort and helps in restoring circadian system functioning. 

Significance of Biophilic Learning Spaces

Studies have shown that making even minor tweaks to classrooms can not only help in student wellness but can also be tied to academic success. Introducing plants and trees, better lighting, establishing a non-visual connection with nature, and applying other biophilic design patterns can make a big positive impact on students.