The Impact of Biophilic Learning Spaces on Student Success

This study was based on Edward O. Wilson’s Biophilia Hypothesis, which states that humans are predisposed to seek connections with nature. The study also built on recent neuroscience literature which suggests that patterns with repeating lines, as are commonly found in nature, are easily processed in the brain. The researchers hypothesized that biophilic design principles applied to a middle school math class would reduce student stress and enhance learning outcomes.

Three different biophilic design devices were chosen to test this hypothesis:

  • A view to nature was provided to students by planting a variety of evergreen and deciduous plants outside of the classroom windows.
  • Nature-inspired patterns, also known as biomorphic forms, were provided on a number of classroom surfaces such as on the carpeting, walls, ceiling, and window shades.
  • Dynamic and diffused lighting was provided by using of translucent roller shades imprinted with the image of a tree shadow, that would raise and lower based on the level of sunlight.

The results of the study indicate that students in the biophilic classroom experienced reduced stress and were better able to concentrate on their classwork. Importantly, improvements in average math test scores were over three times higher in the biophilic classroom over the course of seven months, compared to the scores from the control classroom. The researchers recommend that education funders increase investments in school construction in order to improve the student and teacher experience. They further advocate that education design decision makers in K-12 and post-secondary institutions embrace and engage in biophilic design for the sake of student wellness.

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