Change your surroundings, change your thinking

Create an“enriched” environment by changing or using surprising spatial elements to activate & thus engage, different parts of the brain

Photo of Elsa Fridman Randolph
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I was struck and inspired by this article on the space of the Procore offices - The Startup That Designed Its Office to Confuse Workers:

It’s designed expressly to make workers get and feel lost, because, as neuroscience shows, disorientation keeps people alert and expecting the unexpected.

“Physical, tactile environments with different colors and lighting can affect how you feel throughout the day, by affecting your ability to pay attention and restoring energy,” says André Bellerjeau, a global practice leader at the architecture consulting group Little. He’s s describing the effects of an “enriched” environment, which uses surprising or changing spatial elements to activate, and thus engage, different parts of the brain and create new neural pathways. When parts of the brain must focus on new stimulus, blood flow increases, as does alertness. To do this, Bellerjeau says, it’s essential to “create opportunities for people to engage with their environments.”

Put in simpler terms: “The way we live life is very diverse … I have some of my best ideas in random places—the car, the shower—so we developed a space that is highly diverse,” Corbett says.

I can think of many ways to play around with this idea and prototype similar solutions in schools and classrooms - change lightbulbs, reconfigure desk arrangements (or get rid of desks altogether for a bit). Modular furniture/wall paneling are great to play around with space easily. 


Join the conversation:

Photo of Margaret Powers

I know many teachers who change the arrangement of their classrooms, or at least their desks/tables, at different points during the year but it would be interesting if that also spread to the school and if students had more of a voice in that change. I wonder whether the locus of control is a factor? At Procore, it seems like the leadership team and the designers created the space with a specific, disruptive purpose in mind but in schools, the control to make change often lies with teachers but only inside their classrooms and only to a limited degree. What if teachers actually moved rooms during the school year and administrators worked out of "pop-up" offices in different areas of a school? Could that create more of a productive (or overwhelming?) disruption in school environments?

Photo of Farihah

Margaret, really interesting concept of flipping administrative offices and classrooms and having the offices be the spaces that moved. Might be really great in helping school staff and administrators understand more about the goings on around the school (due to not having brick and mortar walls as barriers and having proximity to new parts of the school) which would help admin better identify problems and solutions at the school.

Also, your comment got me thinking about what would happen if students had the ability to rearrange their homeroom classroom or even redecorate it once a year. This would really help students feel a sense of ownership, belonging, would make it comfortable, and would also be a real-world learning opportunity. Students would have to critically solve the problem of designing a space using limited resources in order to meet the needs of increased productivity and focus in the classroom.

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