Students’ social life profoundly affects their academic performance. The stronger their relationship is with members of the school community, the safer they feel being in school, helping them maximise their full potential.
The thing about campuses though is that just because it’s a space filled with people does not automatically mean that interactions happen and that students enjoy healthy relationships. In fact, if you would just refer to bullying statistics across UK schools, you would know that relationships could be toxic inside supposedly friendly spaces.
So, school administrators must be intentional in planning their campus designs, creating lots of avenues for interactions. That said, here are ways to make your campus a more social space.
There should be flexible spaces around your campus where students can just drop by or linger for a while. Informal areas like school shelters help shatter hierarchies, say, seniority or socio-economic status, making interactions easier among pupils. Your school shelter can serve as an extension of your cafeteria or a standby area when kids are waiting for their school buses. It can also be a place where children can get shade when playing during the recess period.
In some instances, school administrators add books and reading desks in their shelters, building some sort of outdoor library, in case students would want to do their homework there. So then it becomes different kinds of things for different students. The bottom line here is you have to create casual spaces that students can use for meeting fellow schoolmates.
Take note of the ‘neglected’ spaces
If you would observe students closely, you would realise that some of the most meaningful conversations happen not in classrooms, but on the way to classrooms: at corridors, at pathways towards another building, on the stairs, among others. These are areas often neglected, but since these are where students make good interactions, these spaces must be given serious thought.
At hallways, install acoustic panels for better noise control. At walkways in between buildings, make sure that they are covered to protect students from harsh weather elements. Overall, the often-neglected spaces should have a good thermal and ergonomic design.
Build inclusive classrooms
For sure, your students are already socialising inside classrooms, but of course, there is always some room for improving such interactions. Your goal is to build an inclusive environment, where everybody feels accepted for who they are, regardless of race, gender or religion. So, make it a priority to dedicate a section inside classrooms, which would allow students to connect with each other personally.
Make it as casual as possible, say, decorate it with beanbags and pillows, so children will find it easy to open up. Inform students that whenever they would go to that section and someone shares a part of themselves, no one will be judged. Call it your ‘no judgment zone’, if you want.
Remember, the quality of the relationships your students build inside the school can dramatically influence their academic success. You have the power to create better interactions among your students. Harness that opportunity and build a more social campus.