If you are familiar with my work on TeachersPayTeachers, you probably know that I prefer clean, minimal design. The pages of my work are not busied with unnecessary clipart, colors, or borders. I personally find all those extras to be distracting and wouldn’t want my students distracted by them. In fact, when I taught first grade my district adopted a full color consumable student workbook which caused me to develop my own curriculum entirely. It was that bad.
So what does this have to do with a natural classroom? Well, my aversion to cutesy and colorful made me curious about colors in the classroom. If you have ever been in an elementary school, you have seen the primary-colored decor or theme designs that cover every surface of a classroom. It’s very difficult for me to provide the examples below, but a picture is worth a thousand words.
In my search for ideas to redesign my classroom, I found articles, posts, and research about color and its impact on our mood and focus. While bright colors may spark energy, they can also increase aggressive and nervous behavior – these are not the behaviors I want evoked in my students or me. I prefer cool colors like blues and greens that calm and relax. They are also found in my favorite natural setting: water. I also found information about Reggio Emilia, and was inspired by the use of items found in nature and natural materials in the classroom. I love the idea of making the classroom feel more like a home than an institution.
It’s not easy designing a natural classroom. Most educational supply companies sell products in bright, rainbow colors, especially in the primary grades. So while I still have some colorful supplies and materials, I am trying to incorporate more natural elements. I continue to search and think creatively about ways to swap out the bright colors, but here are some things I have done already:
I use wood bowls for manipulatives and other small supplies.
I can usually find small, wooden bowls for 50¢ at thrift stores. It’s a nice change from the plastic bins.
I found this adorable bark pattern fabric and slip covered my previously red-yellow-blue chair cushions.
I bring nature in to the classroom – living or not. I’ve swapped plastic for metal utensil organizers.
I am trying to limit the number of colors used in my room and pick colors found in nature, like this polka-dot rug.
I made these “stump” seats from a branch that came down (upcycle) with the reluctant help of my father.
They took an entire summer to problem-solve and complete, but I love how they turned out.
So, have you considered going natural in your classroom? Please share any ideas for ridding the room of copious color. If you are interested in ideas or inspiration, follow my Natural Classroom board on Pinterest: