- Oct 24 2016
Flooring is the foundation of a classroom, both literally and in terms of the learning environment. Cushy carpeted classrooms for example, while comfortable and sound absorbent can also encourage allergens and dust as well as the respiratory complications that accompany these air borne irritants. Meanwhile, totally bare floors can be an acoustic nightmare. So what factors should be taken into account to select the right flooring?
Numerous studies point to the importance of air quality in the learning environment. For example, Danish researchers discovered that students performed seven percent better on language and math tests when the indoor air quality improved. Unfortunately, schools have a hefty challenge ahead of them as indoor air quality, on average, contains two to five times more pollutants than the fresh air outdoors. Carpeted rooms in particular can serve as the collecting grounds for dust, dirt, mold spores and other allergens and irritants.
This diminished air quality can lead to asthma attacks and other illnesses, causing children to miss school and fall behind. Even when students attend classes, allergens can cause distracting side effects such as itchy eyes, runny noses or fatigue – all negatively impacting a student’s ability to learn.
Another invisible element of classroom learning is the acoustic environment. So much of the learning that happens in school is auditory, so even if schools have the best teachers, motivated students and top quality resources, if students cannot hear what’s happening at the front of the class, or are distracted by noise, nothing else matters. The inability to hear clearly is linked to anxiety and attention issues. The acoustic environment is even more crucial for younger children as they begin to develop language and listening skills.
Studies have linked chronic noise to poor psychomotor skills, lower reading scores and difficulties solving cognitive problems. An overly noisy environment can also normalize loud behavior – further detracting from a healthy acoustic environment.
While there may not be a one-size-fits-all flooring solution for every environment, experts have outlined certain guidelines to follow in order to create a healthy indoor environment, in terms of both acoustics and air quality.
As carpets tend to increase air quality problem, health organizations tend to recommend employing alternative measures to reduce noise and provide comfort. For example, walls and ceilings outfitted with the proper material can be used to absorb sound. Likewise, furniture can be arranged to minimize echoing in large spaces. To accommodate activities where children are seated on the floor, cushions and rugs provide a washable yet comfortable alternative to full carpeting. In environments where carpeting is absolutely necessary, experts recommend regular and rigorous cleaning methods to ensure that the environment is free of allergens and irritants.
As more and more research emerges about the crucial role that flooring plays in our schools, administrators must take into account all these factors for the sake of student learning and well-being.
The importance of classroom flooring goes far beyond aesthetics and budget. The type of flooring schools select – whether it be carpet, hardwood, cement – can contribute (or indeed, detract) from student health and well-being and ultimately academic performance.
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