Learning Environment

10 Tips for Keeping Learning Spaces Clean & Keeping Learners Healthy

Part of creating a positive learning environment is making sure that cleanliness and wellness are priorities.

Whether it’s cold and flu season or a random Tuesday some other time of year, maintaining a clean classroom where healthy habits are taught and practiced is an important part of creating a positive learning environment. Having students and/or teachers that are under the weather makes for extra efforts in dealing with absences and/or decreased efforts due to symptomatic fallout from whatever virus is circulating. While colds and flus can’t be avoided, their spreading can be curtailed. With these 10 tips, teachers and students can breathe a little easier in a cleaner environment that promotes good health.

  1. Double (or Triple) Up on Waste Baskets– Most classrooms are “gifted” with a single waste basket. While some students wear out a path from making trips, others are not as motivated to hit the bin with their garbage which can include used tissues (ick!!!). By placing multiple bins around the room, students are able to easily dispose of any trash, and a shorter trip to the bin can be less disruptive overall. At the end of the day, have a helper place all the bins by the main classroom door, so the custodian isn’t searching the room for countless receptacles.
  2. Handwashing – This may seem basic, but there are never enough reminders to wash hands after the restroom and before eating. There are even some great tunes that kids can sing or hum while doing so. While the musical stylings may be geared toward little ones, there is certainly a lesson for all ages in the duration and methods shared. If handwashing before eating isn’t an option with ease, hand sanitizer is a perfect go-to second.
  3. Avoid Haphazard Stacks– Dealing with large number of students can equate to large (and high) piles of everything paper. When those stacks are left to grow, they can become germ breeding grounds. When everything has its place and papers are returned and/or recycled in a timely manner, all those festering germs don’t have time to grow.
  4. Strategically Placed Hand Sanitizer– If there are some common usage items in the classroom, place a bottle of hand sanitizer next to them, and encourage students to do a quick cleanse before using the pencil sharpener, hole punch, classroom computers, communal marker/pencil for a signup sheet, etc.
  5. Cover Coughs & Sneezes– This is another throwback to early teachings, but it could still use some more reinforcement to garner widespread usage. Covering a cough or sneeze with a bent elbow is a great way to lessen the spread of germs. Using a tissue is an even better way to get those germs off the person and into one of the many waste baskets found within the space.
  6. Sanitizing Wipes– Just as hands need to stay clean, so do the surfaces they touch. Doing a little extra cleaning by wiping down desks and common surfaces can help deter the spread of germs. This could be an end of the day routine that occurs when stacking chairs or packing up to leave begins, or it could quickly be done after students leave.
  7. Abundance of Tissues– There’s been a lot of controversy over a box of tissues equating to credit or extra credit in classrooms where a point system is utilized. Rather than assigning a point, make a point to tell parents that the likelihood of sick days requiring time off of work may be squashed with a box or two of tissues. The antiviral ones would be a real bonus. Sending an email with a link to a local retailer or online retailer option could help parents remember to add the item(s) to their shopping lists.
  8. Personalized Supplies– If students have personal supplies at their work stations, it can drastically cut down on the transfer of germs. Keeping pencil pouches stocked with pencils, glue sticks, scissors, etc. can keep sickness at bay. If classroom-provided supplies are the only option, dividing them into sets for stations or groups (and having hand sanitizer in close proximity) can reduce the widespread distribution of germs.
  9. Allow for Accessibility– Students that are going to get reprimanded for getting up to get a tissue or throw out a used one are going to be less likely to partake in cleanliness measures that lead to improved health. This is a situation where weighing the pros and cons comes into play when movement restrictions are being implemented. No matter what the proximity is, if students aren’t granted accessibility, there’s no way to expect them to do their part in maintaining a healthy environment.
  10. HEPA Filter– This is the more costly of the tips, but the reduction in sickness could prove to be a huge return on the investment. The purchase of a HEPA filter could be proposed to the PTSA or even offered as a suggestion to a room parent looking for holiday or teacher appreciation ideas. There are options for less than $100, and this could prove to be a great gift for teachers to give themselves and their students.

Missing days and/or coming to school under the weather can wreak havoc on a learning environment. By instilling some routines and practices that promote cleanliness and wellness, teachers can help in deterring bouts of cold and flu symptoms. A little cleaning and some mindful habits go a long way toward keeping germs at bay!