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Students’ Health and Their Classroom Environment Are Well Connected

Mar 19, 2019 by

For a long time, student outcomes have been the measure of school quality. From funding and professional development of teachers to standardization of tests and provision of enrichment opportunities, virtually everything has been revolving around improving student’s learning achievements. Sadly, the classroom environment — which plays a huge role in academic outcomes — has largely been an afterthought.

Fortunately, views on classroom environments are shifting. A growing body of research has shown that environmental factors within the classroom affect the health of students, which in turn influences concentration, attendance, and performance. Let us take a closer look at the connection between key environmental factors and student health outcomes.

Lighting

The quality and quantity of light in classrooms has a considerable effect on the health and wellbeing of students. The students that benefit from optimized lighting show high levels of wellbeing. Industrial-style fluorescent lighting can interfere with learning. The buzzing of the fluorescent lights can distract students with sensitive hearing or autism. Poorly lit classrooms look gloomy and uncomfortable, making them detrimental to students’ concentration and happiness. Additionally, they may exacerbate ADHD and learning disorders.

Natural light is especially important for classrooms. According to research, natural light deprivation can disrupt the melatonin cycles of students thus interfering with their alertness (Figueiro & Rea, 2010). An appropriate amount of natural light is essential to students’ mental health and productivity. It boosts the morale of students while reducing off-task behavior and improves their test scores. Studies have found students with the most exposure to natural daylight to progress faster in their studies and score higher on standardized tests. Classrooms that lack big windows can create similar effects using lamps with natural light bulbs.

Temperature

Proper temperature conditions in classrooms are vital for students’ health, engagement levels, and productivity. Reduced memory ability, loss of focus, fatigue, and lower test scores are some of the problems associated with too cold or too hot temperature conditions in classrooms.

Based on best analyses, the ideal temperature for learning is 68-74 degrees. Maintaining such a temperature range in all classrooms within a school calls for teachers being able to control their own classrooms’ temperature or at least, small blocks of classes that have similar exposure to sunlight and outside temperatures.

Humidity

High humidity in classrooms can bring about reduced concentration, lack of energy, and increased sleepiness. Even worse, it could lead to mold growth. Mold does not usually cause health problems immediately. However, long-term exposure can provoke asthma attacks and allergies. Asthma is a primary cause of student absenteeism, accounting for about 14 million missed school days a year according to the CDC. Besides missing days of school, students that are prone to asthma attacks can even be hospitalized due to the mold in their classrooms.

Mold needs humidity levels of 65%-99% at the surfaces that it grows on. It is possible to eliminate its growth with humidity control. The humidity levels in a classroom can be easily kept within a range that prevents mold growth with top rated dehumidifier.

Air Quality

Common indoor air pollutants have been observed to be two to five times higher in schools than in the outdoors. Polluted air makes the learning environment uncomfortable for students, causing symptoms like headaches, congestion, coughing, watery eyes, dizziness, nausea, and asthma-like symptoms. Air quality issues are a greater concern to students with severe allergies and chronic breathing problems. The effects of poor air quality not only detract from students’ focus in the classroom but can also lead to unnecessary absenteeism.

Good indoor air quality (IAQ) is important to the health of students. It calls for, among other things, minimizing sources of pollutants and providing adequate air filtration. Schools that have adopted indoor air quality frameworks, such as the EPA’s IAQ Tools for Schools, have witnessed an improvement in the health of their students. In the Omaha School District, there was a reduction in the severity and frequency of asthma attacks after the implementation of an air quality management program (Bengston, 2012). The North Haven School District saw a reduction of school nurse visits by 11% and cases of respiratory problems by 48% after adopting an IAQ program (Connecticut Education Association, 2011).

Ventilation Rate

Ventilation rate refers to the rate at which outside air flows into a building. Several studies have linked reduced ventilation rates to an increase in missed school days due to respiratory illnesses (Toyinbo et al., 2016a), incidences of sick building syndrome (Chatzidiakou et al., 2015a), viral infections (Chatzidiakou et al., 2012), and transmission of influenza, chickenpox, and other airborne diseases (Li et al., 2007; Luongo et al., 2015).

Big strides have been made in research on the impact of increasing ventilation rates in schools. Studies have revealed that improving the conditioning of ventilation systems and increasing outdoor air supply to classrooms to enhance the task speed in students (Wyon & Wargocki, 2007) and reduce respiratory illnesses, especially asthma (Smedje & Norbäck, 2000).

There is plenty of evidence that shows the classroom environment affects the health and productivity of students in profound ways. Now is the time to act to create clean, well-lit, and well-ventilated humidity-controlled classrooms that will give students the healthy environment they need to maximize their academic potential.

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