“Nature holds the key to our aesthetic, intellectual, cognitive,
and even spiritual satisfaction.” E.O. Wilson
What We Do
Nature In The Classroom seeks to transform the education environment by installing ceiling murals of tree canopies in classrooms. The character of a student’s learning environment plays a key role in learning and behavioral outcomes. Bringing nature into the classroom sends a strong message that the natural world isn’t separate from the pursuit of knowledge. It is the source of all that is known.
Making this seemingly simple connection provides students and teachers with context for all of the subjects being taught. Mathematics, physics, social studies, and poetry all emanate from humans engaging with, and attempting to understand the natural world. Including the natural world in the pursuit of learning, whether indoors or out, has the potential to positively influence the outcomes all schools seek.
Why We Do It
Greening schoolyards and classroom views to trees has been documented to boost academic achievement, creativity and social emotional learning. Outdoor experiences are essential for the healthy development of children of all ages. But students, faculty and staff spend 85-90% of their day indoors. In urban and inner-city schools, playgrounds are mainly asphalt and windows are often barred, covered or simply have a view to another wall. Due to the increased violence, new schools are being built without classroom windows. Overcrowded schools have brought in portable classrooms to accommodate nine million plus students, where window views often look out to another portable classroom.
Why This Works
Nature In The Classroom is the embodiment and application of Attention Restoration Theory (ART) and fifty years of supporting research. The science shows that when we view trees or images of trees it calms us, helps us focus and engage. Karyn Smolic, a middle school teacher summed it up, “I can already tell that by having the tree ceiling it has brought a sense of calmness and peace to the students seated underneath them.”
CBS News Features The Benefits of Trees in Classrooms
Article: Caitlin O'Kane from CBS News outlines the science and benefits of bringing trees into the classrooms
Video: CBS News The Uplift, features Nature In The Classroom. They capture 5th graders at Taft Elementary in Santa Ana, CA seeing their tree ceiling for the first time. It is the lead story.
This before / after collection of classrooms illustrate how tree ceiling murals transform the learning environment. Ceilings are installed in California at the Los Angeles Unified, Long Beach Unified and Corona-Norco Unified School Districts, and in Colorado in the Poudre and Loveland School Districts.
Trees in the Classroom Support Environmental Education
Tree ceilings in conjunction with outdoor environmental education anchor the lessons taught, and foster a love and awareness of nature. Endemic Catalina Island tree ceilings were placed in K-2 classrooms at Avalon Schools. The Catalina Conservancy's environmental education program has found this helps kindergartners retain the special meaning of an endemic species. These thank you notes illustrate the impact of how tree ceilings support environmental education.