Daylight vs. Artificial: A Classroom Lighting Dilemma

If there's one thing that I've learned from my 18+ years of school, it’s that concentration and the ability to focus can be incredibly difficult. After four and a half years of receiving my degree in Elementary Education with a Specialization in Reading, I wanted to make sure that my own classroom would foster a community that not only supported my students social and emotional well being, but also created the energy and focus of a hard working student. When stepping foot into my own first grade classroom, the very first thing that I noticed was that I had an entire wall space filled with windows. I opened the blinds and immediately soaked in the future grounds of learning and curiosity. I was very grateful for the classroom I was given, and here is why: 

The Problem:
There's one major problem that schools are encountering today. According to Healthy Schools Network, based out of New York, studies show that poor or inappropriate lighting in schools can adversely affect children's health and their ability to learn. Stated clear as day, no pun intended, natural light is the most important source of light and energy for human beings. On average, children spend up to 40 hours a week in a school building that is usually fully lit by artificial lighting. Due to this type of lighting, studies show that more students are absent throughout the year, inhibiting students’ potential academic growth. 

The Solution:
It's simple. As Healthy Schools Network puts it, "studies conducted on schools have reported that the use of 'daylight' or 'full-spectrum lighting' is associated with healthier students." Healthier is not only judged by the student's well being, but also their work habits. Students who work under natural lighting have fewer cavities, gain a healthy weight and grow taller more than students who work under artificial lighting. These same students develop a better work ethic, have increased academic growth, are more easily able to fight off fatigue, and generally have a more positive attitude. 

While completing my Reading Practicum in Iowa City, I was pleasantly surprised to see the remarkable source of natural lighting. This particular school had updated its building with a "daylighting" design that utilized skylights and strategically placed windows to accurately obtain daylight. As I learned from Healthy Schools Network, these "full-spectrum lighting" designs use full-spectrum florescent lamps that are placed at a calculated location to mimic daylight; "improved lighting in schools is a large part in the effort to promote "higher performance" schools that provide a healthy and productive learning environment,” the study reports.

So while I am cognizant of the fact that not all schools and districts are in a position to revamp their building designs, I suggest opening the blinds and turning off the florescent lights. Explore the power of the sun and how it can impact your students' overall performance. Let's appreciate the nature of our sun and allow it to do its' job; warm our days and brighten our futures. 

Resources:
“Daylighting.” Healthy Schools Network Inc., 2012.

By: Carly Michlin
Twitter: @MissMichlin