Technology and flexibility have become the guiding principles to twenty first century classroom design. These principles are in conflict with two primary requests of educators; storage and display space. In a series of posts we will examine the challenges facing administrators, educators, and designers with these conflicts and the clutter that often results.
Part 1: Brought to you by RubberMaid
In an era of relatively inexpensive printing and online media warehouses, an explosion of media has strained this balancing act. Classrooms often overflow with the modern shoe-box, the Rubbermaid tub. These humble containers house everything from past student’s work to laminated charts. It is not uncommon to find tubs lining every wall, shelf, and floor tile not holding a student. In fact many teachers admit to storing dozens of these tubs in remote storage rooms or in their own basements. For many teachers, the props, posters, and pinups are mandatory parts of the education environment. Unfortunately these solutions have some unintended consequences.
Items such as paper, boxes, containers, and shelving are natural allergen and asthma trigger receptors. For parents of an asthmatic child, the first line of defense is the reduction of ‘clutter’. Clutter in this case refers to any non-planned decor, storage, or other items that make the deep cleaning of an area difficult. In a home setting this can be controlled by the amount of time and resources you have to devote to cleaning, dusting, and vacuuming. In the school setting this is not as easy to control. Much of the improvised storage in classroom environments would be categorized as clutter. Even dedicated maintenance staff find it impossible to remove the dust and irritants that collect on, in, and behind the containers regularly found in classrooms.
In its 2009 school walk-through report, the Minnesota Department of Heath cites as one of the six occupant related problems that cause asthma problems is “Excessive clutter: seen more frequently in elementary grade classrooms.” It further recommends,” Remind staff that papers & general clutter is difficult to clean, collects dust, and can worsen existing breathing problems such as asthma.”
Paper is a particularly troublesome product. It acts as a food source when coupled with humidity and darkness to create mold. Due to this, proper air tight storage is recommended, which leads to the “tubs.” Unfortunately, tubs create voids and surfaces that promote dust accumulation and present obstacles for general maintenance and cleaning. One of the best ways to combat this is closed storage units and closets. Despite the expense of wardrobe cabinets or closets, these may be the most acceptable way to combat the air quality issues. Unfortunately, these present other challenges, they limit flexibility, take up valuable space, and come at a great expense. Therefore the ability to expand dedicated storage will continue to be an uphill battle.
So perhaps the solution resides in reducing the amount of items requiring storage. That will be our topic next time.