Create a cheerful and calming environment by bringing nature into your classroom.
I stumbled upon this tip as a substitute teacher while I was in grad school. In one classroom I subbed in, the teacher had placed live flowers in the middle of each table group of desks. Next to the flowers were a cup of water and a medicine dropper. Anytime during the day, the students could take a little break and feed the flowers. The kids found this to be both calming and cheering. Anyone who has ever tended a garden knows that taking care of a living thing really puts life in perspective. Sometimes that’s just what kids need to get them through long division.
When I was a beginning teacher, I did the same thing, but with bamboo plants. It was cool, but became a pain during breaks because I had to take all of the bamboo home. The next year, I switched to artificial flowers.
They worked just as well! Plus, upkeep was much easier. The flowers brought life and happiness into the classroom. They really broke up the formica fake-wood desks nicely. The kids loved having them as centerpieces.
I found another use for the flowers: clutter replacers. I bought cheap flower arrangements at Ross ($5 each) and placed them around the classroom, wherever the kids and I tended to leave piles of papers or books. The classroom stayed neater because there wasn’t space for the clutter.
Flower pens are good, too. I made three arrangements, one for each space in the classroom where I tended to do work, but it seemd like I never had a pen. It worked quite nicely. Sometimes I let the kids use the pens as a special treat.
The flowers are also useful for school events. My classroom flowers have brightened potlucks, volunteer luncheons, you name it.
You might be wondering if all these flowers make the classroom too feminine, but that has not been my experience. Boys and girls like the flowers equally well. Our room’s dominant color is green, so the flowers are just accents. I try to use yellow, orange, red or white as the dominant flower colors. (Plus, a classroom where fun nicknames, Fort Day, Greek tortoise formations for the school parade, and Captain Underpants all figure prominently is just not that feminine.)
Flower buying tips:
I bought centerpieces at JoAnn Fabrics. They have a really nice selection of flower bunches. I got the copper flowerpots there, too.
Wal-Mart has a good selection of flowers. I buy bunches of flowers to cut up and use for pens. It’s more economical that way.
You can find neat flowers at dollar stores, but some of them look really cheap. Be judicious with your picks!
The flower centerpieces tend to last a school year or two. The worn-out bunches can then be cut up and rearranged into clutter-replacing arrangements.
Ross, TJ Maxx, Marshalls and similar stores have inexpensive flower arrangements in interesting vases.
Goodwill stores often have flower arrangements and greenery for your classroom at a great price.
You don’t want all the flower arrangements to match; it will look like a wedding. A good rule of thumb is to have no more than two or three of the same flower arrangement. You do want to use complementary colors that look good together.