Quality learning environments are key to academic success


Kate Michel

Assistant Opinion Editor Cass Melo writes how comfortable environments can improve students’ mood, energy levels and productivity.

Cass Melo, Assistant Opinion Editor

Active learning and comfort go hand-in-hand, especially in schools, so Algonquin must continue to invest in creating a comfortable, inclusive setting through sustainable improvements to lighting and furniture.

Productive school environments are crucial for fostering growth, which is the primary purpose of school. According to the Mayo Clinic, comfortable environments have been shown to improve one’s mood, energy level and productivity; this is increasingly important for schools in the wake of the stressful pandemic learning environment.

One of the most impactful parts of inclusivity in classrooms is often overlooked: lighting, something especially important for students who suffer from migraines or learning disabilities. As a main contributor to individuals’ lack of focus and success, poor lighting further damages at-risk students.

Even for the general student population, inadequate lighting can still have an adverse effect. According to a National Academies Press article, proper lighting can improve performance and productivity, especially in school environments.

Classroom lighting varies dramatically around the building, but according to Facilities Director Mike Gorman, Algonquin will soon enter the fourth phase of lighting upgrades with new LED light installations in classrooms.

“These new LEDs create a much better learning environment, in part because they don’t flicker,” Gorman said. “It allows people to focus better, and also provides a less harsh, more natural light that improves learning and test scores.”

In other cases, teachers have taken charge of improving their classroom learning environments. While many classroom modifications are discouraged due to concerns about fire hazards, some teachers, such as social studies teacher Gina Johnston, have found ways to improve their rooms through grants. 

“I got a grant to add a dozen bouncy-ball type seats into my classroom,” Johnston said. “I find they are another comfortable space to help students relax. Traditional desks are just uncomfortable for most students.”

According to Martin Public Seating, a furniture provider, neurodivergent individuals can face more difficulty engaging with learning materials while sitting in traditional school desks, as they are typically rigid with a triggering texture. 

Another problem with standard desks is that they are too uniform for the highly varying bodies of high school students, many of whom are in different stages of development. Additionally, left-handed students are at a disadvantage in comparison to their right-handed counterparts, as desks are often equipped with right-handedness in mind, including an armrest which supports right-handed students while disadvantageing left-handed ones. 

The best solution to improving the comfort level in classroom seating is the addition of standing desks. According to the National Library of Medicine, for most, standing desks can substantially improve posture, increase blood flow and help alertness throughout the day.

While standing desks tend to be expensive, they provide essential educational, physical and mental health benefits, and accommodate both left and right-handed students. The versatility of standing desks make them a worthy investment for Algonquin to implement.

For the necessary long-lasting positive change towards a comfortable and inclusive learning environment for all, standing desks and productive lighting upgrades should ultimately have a place in every classroom.