When it comes to education, there’s no question that teaching methods and the availability of school resources have a tremendous influence over a child’s ability to learn. But classroom design also has an impact on the learning experience—as much as 16% according to research from Building and Environment. Color, and how it’s incorporated within the classroom space, was examined as part of this 2015 study of over 3,700 students.
The impact of color on mood and behavior has long been studied by color psychologists, scientists, and design professionals, who have concluded that color elicits distinct neurological and biochemical responses in humans. That’s why we all can relate to phrases, such as “feeling blue” or “painting the town red.” Understanding color theory and its effect on learning with K-12 students are important factors to consider in the design of effective learning spaces. The International Association of Color Consultants North America (IACC-NA) reports that not only does appropriate color design create environments that are conducive to studying, but it also has beneficial effects on students’ health and well-being.
The effects of specific colors on students, however, do vary between ages. According to Frank Mahnke, who authored Color, Environment, & Human Response, elementary school students respond well to the energetic, warmer colors of red, orange and yellow which drive excitement and engagement, while high schoolers perform better with the calming, cooler tones of blue, green, and mauve that help with focus and concentration. His findings align with how educators have observed that young learners need creative stimulation and alertness to explore new subjects and experiences, while older students require peaceful environments to support more complex learning.
According to research, the color blue’s ability to lower heart rate and foster concentration makes it useful in classrooms for science and math, which can be more challenging concepts for students to grasp. A subtle yellow which promotes happiness and increases alertness in students can be motivating in spaces dealing with languages, while a nature-inspired shade of green offers balance – ideal for subjects like history or social studies. Designers also can effectively use color theory and application to distinguish purpose for various educational zones within a single space, such as designating specific zones in a media center that may be used for collaboration or quiet study.
However, as with everything else in life, moderation is key. Too much bright color can bring on overstimulation in children, while too many muted colors in a single space can achieve the complete opposite effect and induce drowsiness. Also, using too many different colors in a learning environment – more than six colors within the same space – can strain the mind and impair students’ cognitive abilities.
An effective way to incorporate color into educational spaces is to provide accents using chairs, desks, tables, or storage. HON’s Colorwav™ offers limitless color combinations using pops of color in the classroom to evoke specific behaviors and emotions that improve academic performance. Colorwav is available on SmartLink® chairs, desks, and storage, as well as Solve® seating and Voi® storage which have broad application for learning spaces.
Strategic use of color within a space supports both functional and aesthetic purposes. By understanding the impact that color has on learning, it’s possible to create enriching educational spaces that positively impact every student’s academic experience.