Feng Shui in the Classroom
Our family will be moving out of state soon. Our 2 young children, who are in elementary school, will therefore be facing the challenges of adjusting to a new school environment. I’m aware of the benefits of using feng shui in our home, and I’d like to know how to apply this practice in a school environment. Are there some basic guidelines you could suggest?
I wish you and your family the best of luck during this major life transition! Yes, feng shui principles can be applied to all places of learning, from elementary school through college.
Since this is a rather large topic, I will highlight some of the major points to consider when assessing a classroom space. As students are spending quite a few hours of their day inside a classroom, it certainly helps to be in a quality environment that is supportive of a positive learning experience as well as providing a healthy, non-toxic atmosphere.
Feng shui is a practice that strives to create safe, healthy, comfortable, harmonious spaces that embrace and align with the natural world. An ideal feng shui spatial plan with all the right furniture and placement will amount to nothing if the atmosphere it’s situated in is toxic and removed from good quality light and air.
Young children, with their more delicate immune systems, are susceptible in older buildings and classrooms that might be tainted with mold, harsh cleaning chemical residue, or indoor air pollution from years of poorly circulated air due to minimally maintained HVAC systems. Newly constructed or renovated schools can be toxic from outgassing of paint, flooring, and construction materials.
My rule is: “If you smell something, say something.” The classroom should be free of moldy, chemical, cleaning, or construction odors. If you are detecting something, don’t be afraid to discuss this with school officials; it is to everyone’s benefit to be in a healthy environment.
Observe your children’s classrooms and check to see if the air smells clean and if there are windows that can be easily opened. Utilize the feng shui principle of bringing nature indoors.
The presence of daylight is hugely important as well. According to a 1999 study conducted for the California Board for Energy Efficiency, which tracked 21,000 students in three school districts in three states, students in classrooms with the most daylight improved 26% faster on reading tests and 20% faster on math tests. In Colorado and Seattle, students in classrooms with more daylight had scores 7 to 18% higher than those in daylight deficient classrooms. Windowless classrooms equal stagnant energy and stagnant minds.
Additionally, routine exposure to daylight and visual access to the outdoors supports children’s normal circadian cycles and enhances their ability to focus, study, and maintain healthy eating and sleeping patterns. With so much current exposure to screens in school, children need a good daily dose of nature to offset the harmful effects of excessive screen use during the school day.
After you’ve been able to determine the above, consider the following as part of a basic feng shui classroom checklist:
1. Teacher and student desks ideally should be in the command position, facing the door entryway so as to properly absorb the chi entering the space. The desks should either be all facing in one direction, with enough space around them to allow freedom of movement, or arranged in an octagon shape. This configuration mirrors the bagua grid, and promotes classroom harmony. An open space at the bottom allows easy access for pupils and flow of chi as well. Observe if the entire space is uncluttered and easily supports student and teacher circulation. Also check for sharp corners, which are dangerous and contribute to negative spatial energy.
2. Comfort, a basic rule of feng shui, needs to be present. Uncomfortable children do not learn well, are often distressed and are mistakenly assumed to have hyperactivity attention disorders. Ask yourself if you would feel good sitting in this room for such a long period of time and maintain concentration and focus. It is every child’s right to enjoy their learning experience.
3. Notice if the five elements are used in a balanced manner. Most classrooms have an overabundance of metal and wood (from desks, bookcases, lighting fixtures). Look for water (glass, mirrors, an aquarium, water element, the colors black, navy blue, anything asymmetrical), fire (all natural and artificial lighting, red, anything triangular or star shaped), and earth (heavy, grounding objects, ceramic, square shapes, yellow, orange, brown).
4. Note the use of fluorescent lighting. A room flooded with this harsh, unhealthy light works against good feng shui and quickly depletes a child’s energy, much as overexposure to computers and lack of daylight. Are the wiser choices of full spectrum light bulbs and floor lamps being used to balance harsh overhead lighting? Is all lighting properly maintained with no evidence of dark spots, flickering, and distracting buzzing sounds?
5. Color is critical. Older elementary schools often relied upon the excessive use of the primary colors. Research has shown these bright, highly saturated colors of yellow, blue, and red actually work against creating an optimal feng shui and learning environment. Red promotes aggression, and should be used sparingly, only as an accent color. Soft, sophisticated, and subdued blues are more calming and increase a student’s drive when there is daily exposure to this color. Green, in all its variations, is an excellent feng shui color, symbolic of the wood element that represents mental growth, peace, and benevolence. This color is especially helpful in a classroom that is deficient in windows and a view of the natural world.
Don’t be afraid to trust what you see and sense in a classroom. The way students and teachers interact and behave is a telling sign about the quality of feng shui that is present. Negative, unhelpful chi in a space creates corresponding human reactions such as hyperactivity, behavioral issues, lackluster participation and little emotional involvement, to name a few issues. Children are quite pure and unfiltered so they can reveal a lot about what they are experiencing. The body never lies.
Karen Feldman is a certified feng shui practitioner and interior designer, and the owner since 1994 of Urban Eden, a full-service holistic interior design firm in Providence, RI. Karen helps her residential, commercial and corporate clients to co-create spaces that are beautiful, functional and in alignment with the best interests of their well being along with the planet’s. Visit www.karenfeldmanurbaneden.com.