Color in your classroom.
Learning Environment

Designing a Power Palette for Engaging Learners

Let a spin on the color wheel put a positive spin on learning spaces.

Developing an engaging learning space involves more than simply positioning tables and chairs. The aesthetics of a positive learning environment involve all of the nuances that affect the senses. The role that color plays in engaging students is one that can often be overlooked. While being able to select wall and flooring colors is rarely left up to the teacher, adding some colored accents to a bland learning space or toning down an overstimulating one can make a world of difference.

When choosing how and where to add pops of color, options for transforming spaces can be easier to accomplish and more affordable than one may think. A trip to the supply closet, dollar store, or your own basement may hold the key to bringing new life to a bland or overstimulating space. It’s all about finding the perfect balance that will have students ready to engage.

  • Plastic tablecloths with flannel backing are a great way to brighten drab tables or clusters of desks. A little duct tape underneath to hold them in place increases their durability.
  • Bulletin board paper can cover walls too. Hot glue guns and/or tape can liven up a drab wall or cover color that isn’t evoking the right effect. Student work can then adorn this transformed area.
  • Change the mood by changing the lighting. Add some free-standing lamps with colored bulbs and take away the harshness of fluorescent overhead lighting.
  • Throw rugs and comfortable nook seating can be a great place to add color too. Simple patterns or solids are great options.
  • Student work, informational posters, inspirational sayings and images, etc. are great ways to liven a space. Keep a balance in mind and don’t overstimulate by covering every surface.
  • Colorful organizing tools are a great way to add some vibrancy to a drab space. Color-coding for different subjects and/or classes is also a perfect chance to draw students’ attention to the right supplies.

Knowing where to add color is important, but selecting the palette can be the real game-changer with positive transformation. School colors or a personal favorite may seem like the best go-to choices, but colors can evoke some pretty intense subconscious reactions. Choosing positively charged tones for the larger and more permanent displays and adding temperament changing pops for specific learning zones or during specific activities can be the best spin for all learners. There’s lots of information out there about the power of color. Colour Effects offers some insight into the psychological components, and below is a quick-guide for making selections for the classroom.

  • Red screams power and notice me, but too much can overwhelm. Not a good wall color or large area choice, but a perfect pop to draw students’ attention.
  • Orange offers a more playful attention grabbing shade than red. It can focus the mind on the physical environment. Great for smaller learning zones or pops to grab attention.
  • Yellow in its brighter forms can have the effects of red and orange for grabbing attention, but too much can be counterintuitive. Stick to lighter shades for adorning larger spaces and create a feeling of optimism and boost self-esteem.
  • Green is restful and indicates balance. Being at the center of the color spectrum it has a grounding quality. Used in large spaces or as an accent, it is a crowd pleasing neutral choice.
  • Blue is a top choice because it evokes both a calming and secure feeling. It can also signify trust. The right shade would be perfect for a wall, throw rug, flexible seating cover, etc.
  • Purple is the shortest color wavelength and can bring about a heightened awareness and deep introspection. Too much can turn students too far inward though, so keep it on the accent/pop list.

Colors have a subconscious hold on our emotions. The use of color in learning spaces can be a powerful tool. While grays and whites are some of the most common large area choices in educational settings, they have limited effects on the psyche, and if any reaction is forthcoming, it will typically be negative. The thoughtful selection of color choices and creative ways to infuse them into the learning environment can make some refreshing changes to any learning zone. Taking the time to go for a spin on the color wheel can positively impact students’ attitudes and engagement.