As with many things in life, it started rather innocently. I stumbled across an item in the German news magazine Der Spiegel about Feng Shui in the Classroom.
Anke Schenk, a teacher in Laatzen near Hannover, annoyed by disinterested pupils, embarked on redesigning her classroom with the help of Feng Shui experts and the pupils” parents.
Red curtains went up, a rug in the middle, tables and chairs in circles instead of straight lines. Not even two weeks later she noticed “a significant improvement in concentration” among first-graders. The children “became much more motivated; the phlegmatic ones were working faster, the rowdy ones behaved more balanced.” It’s easier for the kids to let others finish talking.
Other teachers find it “simply more pleasant” to work with that particular class.
The success of this experiment so much impressed the Lower Saxony Ministry of Education that they are planning “feng shui” classrooms in another 10 schools, Der Spiegel concludes.
A little research on the Internet revealed some more interesting information on the subject:
At TeacherFocus.com, a lively discussion is taking place, with teacher Tom from Fresno, California, posting a host of book resources for further reading.
A book, Feng Shui—A teacher’s guide for creating balance and harmony in the classroom, has been published by Perfect Harmony Press.
On the National Education Association’s web site you will find excerpts from another book, Feng Shui for the Classroom: 101 Easy-to-Use Ideas, by Renée Heiss:
“Did you ever notice that the corners of Chinese pagodas are always turned upwards? That is because in feng shui, pointed objects are as detrimental to health and wellness as actual weapons. The Chinese turn the corners of the pagodas upward so as to deflect the poison arrows from people who pass by.
Which of these poison arrows or sheng chi influences do you have in your classroom?
• Long, overhead beams
• Desks in rows
• Objects that point downward from the ceiling
• Classroom door at the end of a long hallway
• Sharp corners on tables and cabinets
• Square pillows
If you have any of these problems, you may use some of the following remedies:
• Add a mirror to reflect the sharp corners of pillars or cabinets back to the object, thereby containing the poison arrows within.
• Rearrange your desks so that they are not in a straight line.
• Hang garlands from the overhead beams.
• Wrap seasonal fabric strips around pillars.
• If your classroom is at the end of a long hallway, hang a mirror outside of your classroom to reflect the sheng chi.
Sharp corners and edges are only two of the many issues Feng Shui tackles. Colour is another. In 2001 the New York Times published an article by Kate Zernike, “The Feng Shui of Schools”.
In it she writes: “A change of colour is the least expensive and fastest way to improve a school’s environment. In general, bright colours stimulate brain activity and respiration.”
Cool colours promote muscle relaxation and reduction in blood pressure — especially good for calming budding teenagers in the middle grades. But don’t use too much of any one colour. Designers recommend mild colours for walls and floors to minimize glare and restful colours for, say, a reading area. Stronger colours are reserved for areas that demand attention, in particular the “teaching wall” behind the chalkboard or marker board. They also encourage a broader range than has been traditional.
“Young children are bored with primary colours,” Ms. Elliott, head of interior design at Fanning/Howey Associates, said. “It’s overdone, and just as adults get sick of looking at white walls, they get sick of looking at red, blue and yellow.”
The article concludes: “School design may also enhance safety.
The new model school is arranged around a hexagonal common space, with short hallways. The long corridors in traditional schools, architects say, send a message to “run” — not exactly the way to reduce truancy and rebellion. And 90 percent of behaviour problems, Ray Bordwell, an architect with Perkins & Will in Chicago, one of the nation’s oldest school design firms ,says, happen in the hallways between classes.
While some educators doubt assertions that design can affect behaviour — and academic achievement — planners warn not to underestimate its impact. “If you were going to ask me what the most important thing in a classroom is,” Ms. Elliott said, “other than a good teacher, I’d say the carpet.”
Mrs. Perisino, a teacher at Marietta, Georgia, USA, summarizes the importance of Feng Shui in the classroom, when she says: “I believe that a classroom should be warm and inviting and have a loving atmosphere. I believe in telling my students how much I care for them, and I believe in the power of hugs and smiles. I want them to want to come to school each day because they love being there and because they feel respected.”
“I have a new-found interest in Feng Shui and other design elements for the classroom to further the feeling of acceptance and responsibility.
• using plants
• painting with colours that invite thought and calmness
• carefully planning desk arrangements to ease flow and focus
• allowing in lots of sunlight and using lamps to minimize the negative affects of fluorescent lighting
• having little to no clutter and maintaining a clean classroom
• using the senses of sound and smell to calm
• making the whole classroom a functional workspace for the students”
Although barely qualifying for being “scientific” in the traditional sense, there appears sufficient evidence for the beneficial uses of Feng Shui principles in the classroom. As much as the entire scope of Feng Shui seems overwhelming at first, the beauty is that one can start small—and now—with very little additional resources. You don’t even have to be in a teaching environment; why not talk to and encourage your children’s teachers to look into the subject—it will be to their own benefit too! ?