For years, researchers have been evaluating the influence of color on our emotional state, as well as on our ability to learn. In 1976, Rikard Kuller demonstrated that color and visual patterns affect the cortex and the central nervous system. Color has also been proven to alter the level of alpha brain wave activity, a measurable indicator of human alertness. In addition, when the human eye takes in color, the brain releases a hormone which affects our moods, mental clarity and energy level. These findings can have a monumental impact on schools and other educational facilities by promoting productivity and focus in the classroom. In fact, color may be as important as comfortable classroom chairs and classroom tables for student efficiency. Even the color of school lockers can add much to the atmosphere in the classroom.
Color and Eye Strain
Concentrating on school work at a desk, and then shifting focus to a board or distant area over and over again, is a demanding task for a student’s eyes. Researchers have found that the eye relaxes more when it stops to rest on a different color than that of its previous focal point. Therefore, to alleviate eye strain in a classroom, the wall facing the students should be painted in a different shade than the rest of the room. When students look up from their desks, the colored wall helps their eyes relax. For best results, the end wall colors should be a medium hue like blue, green or light purple, while the other walls should be neutral- with colors like oyster white, sandstone or beige.
Color and Brain Stimulation
Research has also shown that small color changes can make a difference by stimulating a person’s brain. In an environmental color coordination study conducted by the US Navy, researchers found that the introduction of color caused a 28% drop in accidents. Color in the classroom has also been found to increase productivity and to enhance the student’s attention span. A 1983 study by Harry Wohlfarth evaluated students at four elementary schools, monitoring their performances under the influence of improved lighting and color conditions, and a lack thereof. The students who were exposed to enhanced lighting and additional colors showed a marked improvement over those who were not.
Color choices in the classroom can have a large impact on student behavior and interaction, according to recent studies. Schools that have implemented color plans have found an increase in school pride as well as a decrease in both absenteeism and vandalism when compared to classes with only white walls.
As Dr. Willard R. Dagget, Jeffrey E. Cobble and Steven J. Gertel found, color can decrease problems with disruptive behavior and aggression by soothing students with calming blues and similar hues. Color choices also help to create order and procedure in classrooms. They can define spaces and illustrate where students should walk, which doors they should enter, and which sections of the room are designated for various activities.
Similarly, school furniture can have a dramatic impact on student behavior. Comfortable desks and chairs will help students stay focused and relaxed during their lessons without distracting them with cramps or aches.
Research has shown that colors, like classroom furniture, can have a dramatic impact on student behavior and productivity at school. As children develop, the ideal colors for their surroundings shift. Here is a quick look at some recommended color choices for school buildings:
• Preschool and elementary school children are comforted and stimulated by warm, bright colors such as fuchsia, lime green, bright orange and red
• Middle-school students benefit most from medium-cool shades of blue, green and green-blues
• High school teens are stimulated by darker shades of burgundy, gray, dark green, deep turquoise and violet
• Hallways are the perfect place to experiment with more color ranges and to give the school more personality
• Gymnasiums are best enhanced with active colors like red, orange-red, warm yellow, lime, medium green and orange
• Cafeterias should utilize “nutritious” colors such as orange, red, dark brown and green
• Auditoriums are best suited by dignified, regal colors like purple, navy, violet and burgundy
• Libraries best utilize pale or light green to create an atmosphere of quiet and concentration
Research has shown that the color doesn’t have to be pervasive – even the painting of one wall in the classroom, or adding strategic accents, can have a similar influence on a child’s mood and productivity. This information can help in the interior decorating processes for new schools, while offering an easy, cost effective face-lift to existing school environments, too. With so much evidence linking color to performance, school administrators should carefully consider adding color to their classroom design plans.