I am certainly a crazy plant lady. As I type this right now, I can count seven potted plants within my line of sight and I know there are more in the other rooms of my house. You can even spot, at the end of this post, some plants on my favourite work shirt. I'm obsessed with their many benefits in the classroom!
There's no doubt that having a small potted garden has benefits for the primary classroom, where students are learning responsibilities and understanding the basic principles of photosynthesis. There are, however, many reasons to have a small (or large) collection of plants in the secondary classroom as well! Here are a few reasons:
Physically, plants clean the air in the classroom which is essential for learning. This is especially important for classrooms that lack windows or have windows that no longer open properly! Studies have shown that many common plants actually remove toxins from the air around us, just by being present with us in a room (Shibata and Suzuki, 2002). Some toxins and pollutants that can decrease students' overall learning experience are ozone, toluene, and benzene (Lohr, 2010) which have all been documented to have lower levels in classrooms with some plant power.
More pleasant surroundings
Plants are beautiful! And they are a great way to jazz up your classroom without creating a sensory overload for those students who cannot handle an overly stimulating learning environment. I hand plants on temporary hooks, have them sitting on my desk and the window sill, and even have some small ones hanging from the roof. They really create an enjoyable environment!
Mental health, feelings, and stress reduction
Studies show that when shown a room with no plants and then a room with plants, participants feel much more serene when looking at the latter (Lohr, 2010). Interior plants have been associated with reduced stress, and therefore higher productivity. Quite a few studies also show that people recover from stress more rapidly when surrounded by plants. Your classroom can become the soothing place that helps ease the issues in students' lives. I mean, they even have a plant room on Grey's Anatomy, so that must be saying something!
When your students are experiencing a state of serenity, it is likely that your behaviour management requirements will be significantly lower. As a typical teacher, I couldn't afford to fill up my classroom with a mass of indoor plants from the start of the school year this year. I could however, add plants in dribs and drabs each month. As my room started to contain more plants, I noticed it start to become more of a haven for students. Many (who had never expressed interest before) started coming to spend time in the classroom at lunch time because they felt so soothed in the room. Of course, there are many factors that have contributed to my the reduced behavioural issues, but the plants certainly contribute to an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, rather than energetic and explosive conversations that take over my lessons.
So, what plants are best? After doing some research, and from my own extensive collection of house plants, these are the go to plants. Each one is low maintenance and high impact:
Do you have plants in your classroom? Have you seen the profound benefits on yourself and your students? Or do you have plants in your home and haven't yet ventured into the 'classroom jungle' way of life? Let me know in the comments!