COLOR ME CLUTTERFREE by Millicent Gappell, IFDA Created in 1992 for the Highly Effective Teaching Model The space we create controls us, and the way we arrange our physical space affects people and performance. Nowhere is this arrangement of our space more important than in the school. Those of us who are involved in education are aware of the importance of the richness of the environment in aiding the educational process. By richness, I don’t mean the luxuriousness of the surroundings but the variety of the stimulating elements in the classroom. In a classroom the teacher’s desire is to have a space that will stimulate the students to learn. As in any interior design project we choose objects and materials that will make the room aesthetically beautiful as well as functional. However, teachers often go overboard with their enriching elements, and we spaces that are cluttered with so many “things” that the student goes into overload and shuts off. The overload condition occurs because the human sense organs operate not by monitoring constant input but by detecting and responding to changes in stimulation. We require environmental change to function. The ideal room design would balance the changes in situation and for this we look to nature. In nature these changes occur when we are exposed to constant variations in light, air movement, colors, smells, and textures. These variations are usually gradual. Extreme changes like electrical storms are very dramatic, and while adults may find this drama very exciting, for children these extreme changes can be frightening. In the same way, for young children too much stimulation in their environment may be disorienting. Children need spaces where they can focus their attention. Too few materials make an area seem drab and uninteresting. But too many materials, a cluttered environment, make it confusing. The stimuli become overwhelming. It becomes “visual noise” and just as a loud environment makes it too noisy to learn; a cluttered environment makes it too confusing to think. Human beings function with two mental states which may be called stimulation/activity and rest/rejuvenation. There needs to be a balance between these two conditions in order for people to perform at their optimal level. Research indicates that the attention span of an adult is approximately 40 minutes, after which the level of performance drops. For children the time would be less depending upon the age but the theory is the same. A rest period, a natural occurrence that happens when people look off into the distance or daydream, serves to rejuvenate the human system, and motivates people to be productive once again. An interesting approach to this would be to consider the display tactics used in store design. For a classroom to serve these two mental states it should provide areas that are stimulating and areas that are restful. An interesting approach to this would be to consider the display tactics used in store design; which are also appropriate for classroom design. An interesting approach to this would be to consider the display tactics used in store design. Create a fresh vantage point by moving the location of materials and changing displays often. Stores and classrooms have items that are repetitious to the eye. It is not necessary to display all of them. Removing materials and relocating them at a later time can create a feeling of discovery. Leaving a wall blank can create a feeling of expectancy. We create interest by using fewer items, and arranging them I cluster or groupings to focus attention The Japanese are masters at focusing. Most Japanese rooms are very under furnished to our Western eyes. There is always one beautiful image as the focal point in a room. It is usually an alcove with a hanging scroll on the wall and an ikebana, a quite stylized floral arrangement in the front of the scroll. The rest of the room is very simple so there is space for thought and reflection. Good design recognizes that we need interesting things to look at which may be called “visual touch”, interesting things to touch for the pleasure and tactile stimulation they provide, and interesting spaces to be in. We need these things in proper proportions to provide a balance between stimulation and relaxation. Remember that the space we create controls us. If we change the space, we can advance the program. A good place to start is to remove the clutter and let the space in.