Colour Psychology and its Effects on the Early Years’ Learning Environment

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Introduction

As man goes along in his journey on earth, he encounters different colours of the rainbow which can be ignored at times, but which are a great influence on his activities and behaviour. Colour does not only shape our perception of things but our activities and human relationships.

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Colour influences a child’s perception of the world especially in the growing-up years. A baby is more attracted to colour than shape – this is a given in the early years of learning and development. Child psychologists can attest to the fact that a baby delivers immediate or quick reaction when shown with a colour stimulant.

Children face a lot of environmental factors at home and at school; factors that affect their studies and behaviour. Researchers have found out that these factors include colour, lighting, temperature, circulation and air quality, and noise. They affect a child’s learning process and behaviour.

The job of the architect is to provide a sort of well balanced environment in a building with classrooms that are properly designed, conducive to learning, and where the children can play, interact and spend their whole day together.

Colour influences our everyday living, more so in man’s health and behaviour.

“Colour can either increase or lower blood pressure. A room that is uncomfortably hot or cold can lower thresholds for frustration that can affect the acoustical environment” (Schneider, 2002, cited in Spencer and Blades, p. 102).

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Aims of the Study

This paper aims to provide research and discussion on colour psychology and its effects on the early years of learning of the child. More specifically, the classroom environment where colour is part of the environmental factor that affects a child’s learning processes is given focus.

Colour Psychology

This portion of the study will discuss the importance of colour psychology in the early years’ learning environment: how colour psychology can influence a child’s perception of the things.

Psychology is a science or study involving personality and the many aspects that affect personality and thinking; this includes factors that affect mental state. When we speak of colour psychology, we try to examine its importance on the personality and thinking of an individual. When we speak of mental state, we mean here that the wrong application of colour can affect the mental state of the children in school. This urges us to give a more responsible research and discussion since we can be dealing with the child’s mental state.

Colour psychology therefore involves the process of introducing learning on the children and the importance of colour in the process of learning.

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Colour psychology is a broad subject that must include school architecture and the many ways of dealing with colour in its application on the inside of the classroom, the walls, the ceilings, and the many structures in the school.

We are therefore focusing on the importance of colour in the child’s personality: the way he learns, the way he accepts colour, and the way he/she is affected by colour as part of the environment in the process of learning the academic lessons and other aspects that should be learned by a child in the early years of learning.

Colour is the instrument for reading drawing as the voice is the instrument for reading writing (Gage, 1999, p. 7).

In music, it’s not enough to hear. You feel it to your soul. In looking and feeling the environment around you, you use the other senses which may affect your personality.

Colour is akin to musical timbre; meaning if this is music, how important it is! It can make or break music. In a building, the design is given emphasis with colour; it can help in its beauty and outcome.

But in a classroom, we are not just dealing with beauty. We are concerned with how it influences a child’s learning process including one’s perception, feeling and the acceptance of the teacher’s instructions and lessons for the children. With the application of colour in a teaching environment, the teacher and the pupils (or students) are both affected. They see and feel what are inside. The learning environment is treating both teacher and learner.

How important can colour psychology be to a child and to the teacher? How important can it be to the learning process in the early years of one’s life?

It is lasting. It can be detrimental, or it can be worthwhile in one’s life.

This means the influence of colour cannot be over emphasised. One colour is enough; meaning, a single colour can evoke so many meanings. In the child’s perception therefore, this can be of great effect on interpretation. Psychological impact on personality can be damaging.

To acquire a well-balanced environment, there is a need to understand the perception and application of colour to a child’s environment and activities.

Artists and professionals dealing with colour have tried most of the times to study and manipulate, to the extent, colour, so as to arrive at the required texture, and hence, environment needed.

Colour is light. Everyone has a different perception of colour and objects only acquire colour when light reflects off them or is absorbed by them.”(Cullen and Warrender, 2000, p. 16)

In school architecture, light should be given proper consideration because this is how colour is ‘manipulated’, in a manner of speaking. If daylight is not so enhanced inside, there might be dullness, and this affects the application of colour.

If primary colours are applied so abruptly and with no regard for how it can affect the eyes, it can distract a child’s attention, and learning may be too difficult, or may not be attained.

Our understanding of colour, and light particularly, has been influenced by great men of the past, such as Newton and Goethe. However, Goethe, who refuted Newton’s examination of light, said that light should not be seen or understood in the context of physics.

Goethe stressed that the understanding of light is important in physics, but it is the same as understanding colour. Goethe argued the many effects of colour that should be understood on the effects of physical pressure on the eye, after images, and adaptation, and contrast phenomena.

Goethe refuted Newton’s theory of white light and colours. He based his refutation of Newton’s theory on a simple prism experiment involving borders.

On the other hand, artists and professionals of colour have different perceptions on colour.

In the application of different colours in architecture, proper study and planning should be applied. It is not enough to apply bright colours or primary colours in the classroom because this can affect the attention of the child; it can distract so easily.

In other words, architecture and colour psychology go together. A planner and architect should not be content of merely applying colourful structures without the thought of the structures’ aims and purposes in the whole architecture. A school building must bear the child’s appreciation of colour not in its physical beauty but on what the child feels of the environment. The environment itself is learning; it is a process of acceptance of his first experiences in life. Colour can add or subtract a child’s experience; meaning it can hamper growth and development.

The application of colour therefore should be properly managed in such a way that it can improve and enhance the educational and learning process. If colour and light can be seen as detrimental to health, this is because it is badly applied.

There are studies which have found that the use of nature’s colours can create a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere (Hathaway, 1987, cited in Spencer and Blades 2006, p. 99).

Another finding is that of Rubida Research (2001) and Sinofsky and Knirck (1981), (both cited in Spencer and Blades, 2006, p. 99) which states that “colour is believed to influence student attitudes, behaviours and learning, particularly student attention span.”

Riley (1995, p. ix) says that ‘Color is a source of great anxiety for modern artists and thinkers. It is a topic that has frustrated and inspired many of history’s greatest minds in philosophy, the arts, and the social sciences, who have learned that no system or code can ever sufficiently account for its effects.’

Environmental Psychology

This portion of the study focuses on psychology as it refers to environment. As we have discussed colour psychology focuses on the influence of colour on the early years’ learning environment. Colour psychology can be termed as environment.

The relationship between the environment and the person is reciprocal, which means that not only does the environment influence the individual, but also the individual impacts on the environment.

The environment at school including the building design, which also includes the colour application, and the other structures, affect behaviour of the child.

In understanding the relationship of the physical setting on behaviour, we have to take into consideration the social aspect. For example, when we enter the church, our behaviour is affected by the way we value the church, although the church may just be another building.

The greening of the environment…

Presently, there has been a growing concern for the greening of the environment because of climate change and global warming; some colour-coding concerns are necessary. For example, some classrooms or schools are sited in a green environment, and inside the building are colours of the rainbow. Artists are as much enthusiastic and concerned of the phenomena of the colours in a child’s learning and in mixing and analyzing texture of colours in their activities as artists. The physical environment in school should be of profound importance.

Aside from architecture, colour, and other physical attributes, the use of timber can provide warmth and pleasing environment to a nursery school.

This means the use of materials is also given focus and importance. A school building which is made of timber can provide more environmental importance to a child’s learning process. There is the appeal of the timber because it is a part of nature. When it is applied with colour, there is more appeal and its effects are different to the eyes. When the building is cement, the colour applied is a different thing. Besides, the colour chemical delivers a more different texture when it is applied on timber – it is more pleasant and appealing to the eyes.

Modern School Buildings

This portion of the study provides focus on the importance of colour in a classroom setting: what is colour in its application on the architecture of the school as it affects the child’s learning environment?

Given importance is the design, the materials, and the colour.

An ideal architectural design for a school building provides emphasis on the factors mentioned.

Lighting is an important part of the environment of the classroom, and since colour is light.

In a school building, the space can be articulated by using a limited range of rich primary colours, such as: a blue and green in the entrance hall and red, blue, yellow and green to distinguish each classroom area, orange for the kitchens and turquoise in the courtyards.

The colours are mixed and adapted to the mood of the space and never used in their primary factory condition. The physical structure changes with the application of colour. Dudek further adds that the use of transparent polycarbonate panels in one of the entrance walls made the structure of the building robust. (Dudek, 2000, p. 76)

An example of a Nursery school with a slight touch of colour, warm to the eyes and feel of the children. The picture shows the colour is illuminated with a light that is not so bright but which adds to the effect of the colour in the room.

Electric lightning, daylighting, view and colour are interlinked in design.

People prefer homes that appear daylit to those where electric lighting is dominant. The changing pattern of daylight playing on the surfaces of a room provides information about the world outside. Its natural variation tells of the weather and the time of day.

The best classroom does not necessarily rely entirely on daylight: there are many factors that limit the area of glazing. Some are environmental – for instance, dazzle from direct sunlight and thermal discomfort from large windows must be minimized. The optimum solution is usually one in which electric lighting is designed specifically to be used in conjunction with daylight during daytime hours.

Electric lighting must increase room brightness in spaces distant from windows and provide additional illumination where needed for tasks or display; but it must not swamp the natural variation of daylight.

A school needs architectural style which is sympathetic, cheerful and colourful. A good site or location is one of the prime necessities of a good school. It must be central to the area it serves and must have plenty of open space for a playground and for future expansion.

Trees planted in groups, lawns, fountains, walkways, benches on the side of roads, play areas and benches to watch games are also required. Provision of residential units for the headmaster, teaching and administrative staff, chowkidar, gardener and auxiliary services is also necessary.

In the child’s early process, we can notice the importance of play.

This means that the physical environment in the classroom or in school should be conducive and convenient for play and games for the young pupils. The aim is to provide a homey atmosphere for the children, and so that they would not encounter any accident and traumatic experiences in school. These traumatic experiences can hinder the child’s growth and development.

Architecture of school buildings should be in line with the program of providing adequate playing environment for the children.

Architecture is about colour and the spread of light in a building. If colour is not that admirably spread, and light cannot be felt so warmly, there is no sense in architecture; meaning architecture is a failure, or there must be something wrong. Architecture is about the smooth flow of light and colour that can be warmly felt up to the soul of the one seeing it.

This is an atmosphere which provides cold, birth light at midday and the warm glow of sunset. The environment does not appear normal under high levels of warm light or low levels of cold light.

The physical temperature of light is the opposite of its perceived temperature.

The proper choice of light should be given consideration.

This Is the Start of the Essay

Introduction

As man goes along in his journey on earth, he encounters different colours of the rainbow which can be ignored at times, but which are a great influence on his activities and behaviour. Colour does not only shape our perception of things but our activities and human relationships.

Children meet various environmental factors as they go on with their studies and everyday activities at home and at school. In school, a child should have a well-balanced environment. The classroom must have proper lighting to provide colour that can be acceptable to a child’s unique perception; this includes an environment that is wholesome for the learning children.

Colour influences a child’s perception of the world especially in the growing-up years. A baby is more attracted to colour than shape – this is a given in the early years of learning and development. Child psychologists can attest to the fact that a baby delivers immediate or quick reaction when shown with a colour stimulant.

Children face a lot of environmental factors at home and at school; factors that affect their studies and behaviour. Researchers have found out that these factors include colour, lighting, temperature, circulation and air quality, and noise. They affect a child’s learning process and behaviour.

This is the job of the architect: to provide a sort of well balanced environment in a building with classrooms that are properly designed, conducive to learning, and where the children can play, interact and spend their whole day together.

Rhodes and Leon (2005, p. 18) say that ‘for those to whom colour makes a strong appeal it is life-giving; it can be stimulant and restoration, soothing or sedative. Not many unfortunately love colour as they should, but all are affected by it subconsciously in some degree. A baby will stretch out little hands to a brightly-coloured object long before form or shape has any significant for it.’

Colour influences our everyday living, more so in man’s health and behaviour.

“Colour can either increase or lower blood pressure. A room that is uncomfortably hot or cold can lower thresholds for frustration that can affect the acoustical environment” (Schneider, 2002, cited in Spencer and Blades, p. 102).

Aims of the Study

This paper aims to provide research and discussion on colour psychology and its effects on the early years of learning of the child. More specifically, the classroom environment where colour is part of the environmental factor that affects a child’s learning processes is given focus.

Provided in the Literature Review are aspects of school architecture, touching on the application of colour, texture, and how school buildings and structures in school should be made to reflect proper lighting and colour stimulation for the early learning years of the child.

Colour Psychology

This portion of the study will discuss the importance of colour psychology in the early years’ learning environment: how colour psychology can influence a child’s perception of the things.

Psychology is a science or study involving personality and the many aspects that affect personality and thinking; this includes factors that affect mental state. When we speak of colour psychology, we try to examine its importance on the personality and thinking of an individual. When we speak of mental state, we mean here that the wrong application of colour can affect the mental state of the children in school. This urges us to give a more responsible research and discussion since we can be dealing with the child’s mental state.

Colour psychology therefore involves the process of introducing learning on the children and the importance of colour in the process of learning.

Colour psychology is a broad subject that must include school architecture and the many ways of dealing with colour in its application on the inside of the classroom, the walls, the ceilings, and the many structures in the school.

We are therefore focusing on the importance of colour in the child’s personality: the way he learns, the way he accepts colour, and the way he/she is affected by colour as part of the environment in the process of learning the academic lessons and other aspects that should be learned by a child in the early years of learning.

Colour is the instrument for reading drawing as the voice is the instrument for reading writing (Gage, 1999, p. 7).

In music, it’s not enough to hear. You feel it to your soul. In looking and feeling the environment around you, you use the other senses which may affect your personality.

Colour is akin to musical timbre; meaning if this is music, how important it is! It can make or break music. In a building, the design is given emphasis with colour; it can help in its beauty and outcome.

But in a classroom, we are not just dealing with beauty. We are concerned with how it influences a child’s learning process including one’s perception, feeling and the acceptance of the teacher’s instructions and lessons for the children. With the application of colour in a teaching environment, the teacher and the pupils (or students) are both affected. They see and feel what are inside. The learning environment is treating both teacher and learner.

How important can colour psychology be to a child and to the teacher? How important can it be to the learning process in the early years of one’s life?

It is lasting. It can be detrimental, or it can be worthwhile in one’s life.

Albers (1975) states that ‘the one and the same color evokes innumerable readings. Instead of mechanically applying or merely implying laws and rules of color harmony, distinct color effects are produced – through recognition of the interaction of colour – by making, for instance, 2 very different colors look alike, or nearly alike.’ (xv)

This means the influence of colour cannot be over emphasised. One colour is enough; meaning, a single colour can evoke so many meanings. In the child’s perception therefore, this can be of great effect on interpretation. Psychological impact on personality can be damaging.

To acquire a well-balanced environment, there is a need to understand the perception and application of colour to a child’s environment and activities.

Artists and professionals dealing with colour have tried most of the times to study and manipulate, to the extent, colour, so as to arrive at the required texture, and hence, environment needed.

Bamfield (2001, p. 1) asks: “What is colour, what role does it play in nature, and in our social and intellectual environment? Even today the answers to these questions are far from known and arguments over the psychological and social impact of colour continue to rage.”

Colour is light. Everyone has a different perception of colour and objects only acquire colour when light reflects off them or is absorbed by them.”(Cullen and Warrender, 2000, p. 16)

In school architecture, light should be given proper consideration because this is how colour is ‘manipulated’, in a manner of speaking. If daylight is not so enhanced inside, there might be dullness, and this affects the application of colour.

If primary colours are applied so abruptly and with no regard for how it can affect the eyes, it can distract a child’s attention, and learning may be too difficult, or may not be attained.

“Light is the measure of everything. It is absolute, mathematical, physical, eternal. There is an absolute speed to it, you can’t outrun it; that’s what the theory of relativity is about. Stand here and remember what you can. What you remember is in light, the rest is darkness. The past fades to dark, and the future is unknown, just stars.” (Libeskind, 2004, p. 56)

Our understanding of colour, and light particularly, has been influenced by great men of the past, such as Newton and Goethe. However, Goethe, who refuted Newton’s examination of light, said that light should not be seen or understood in the context of physics.

Goethe stressed that the understanding of light is important in physics, but it is the same as understanding colour. Goethe argued the many effects of colour that should be understood on the effects of physical pressure on the eye, after images, and adaptation, and contrast phenomena.

Goethe refuted Newton’s theory of white light and colours. He based his refutation of Newton’s theory on a simple prism experiment involving borders.

Colour cannot be thought of as a simple appendage of physics. Natural things must be studied in context, and one must understand the nature and conditions responsible for them. (Finger 1994, p. 101)

On the other hand, artists and professionals of colour have different perceptions on colour.

The first thing to realize about the study of colour in our time is its uncanny ability to evade all attempts to codify it systematically. The sheer multiplicity of colour codes attests to the profound subjectivity of the colour sense and its resistance to categorical thought. (Riley, 1995, p. 1)

In the application of different colours in architecture, proper study and planning should be applied. It is not enough to apply bright colours or primary colours in the classroom because this can affect the attention of the child; it can distract so easily.

In other words, architecture and colour psychology go together. A planner and architect should not be content of merely applying colourful structures without the thought of the structures’ aims and purposes in the whole architecture. A school building must bear the child’s appreciation of colour not in its physical beauty but on what the child feels of the environment. The environment itself is learning; it is a process of acceptance of his first experiences in life. Colour can add or subtract a child’s experience; meaning it can hamper growth and development.

Taylor and Gouise (1988, cited in Spencer and Blades, 2006, pp. 98-99) found that ‘warm colours increase the blood pressure and muscular activity, while cool colours lower both.’ This statement is more applicable for adults, but it can be applicable to growing children. We have to remember that we are speaking of classroom environment.

The application of colour therefore should be properly managed in such a way that it can improve and enhance the educational and learning process. If colour and light can be seen as detrimental to health, this is because it is badly applied.

There are studies which have found that the use of nature’s colours can create a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere (Hathaway, 1987, cited in Spencer and Blades 2006, p. 99).

Another finding is that of Rubida Research (2001) and Sinofsky and Knirck (1981), (both cited in Spencer and Blades, 2006, p. 99) which states that “colour is believed to influence student attitudes, behaviours and learning, particularly student attention span.”

Riley (1995, p. ix) says that ‘Color is a source of great anxiety for modern artists and thinkers. It is a topic that has frustrated and inspired many of history’s greatest minds in philosophy, the arts, and the social sciences, who have learned that no system or code can ever sufficiently account for its effects.’

Environmental Psychology

This portion of the study focuses on psychology as it refers to environment. As we have discussed colour psychology focuses on the influence of colour on the early years’ learning environment. Colour psychology can be termed as environment.

Burroughs (1989, cited in Cassidy, 1997, p. 2) defines environmental psychology as “the study of the interrelationships between the physical environment and human behaviour”.

The relationship between the environment and the person is reciprocal, which means that not only does the environment influence the individual, but also the individual impacts on the environment.

Behaviour is a function of the person, the environment and the interaction between the two and is referred to as a person-in-context approach to understanding behaviour. (Cassidy, 1997, p. 3)

The point here is that there is the interaction of the person and the environment; this starts with the child in the process of studying or learning in school.

The environment at school including the building design, which also includes the colour application, and the other structures affect behaviour of the child. (Ittelson, 1960; Osmond, 1957, both cited in Cassidy, 1997, p. 3).

On the other hand, it cannot be denied that social environment is also a part of the subject matter on environmental psychology; there is that interdependence between physical and social environment. Bonnes & Secchiaroli (1995, cited in Cassidy, 1997, p. 4) suggest that ‘there is currently general agreement that environmental psychology is no longer only concerned with the physical environment but rather with the socio-physical environment.’

With this, Cassidy (1997) provides a more elaborated explanation of environmental psychology as “the study of the transactions between individuals and their socio-physical environments” (p. 4).

In understanding the relationship of the physical setting on behaviour, we have to take into consideration the social aspect. For example, when we enter the church, our behaviour is affected by the way we value the church, although the church may just be another building.

Harold Proshansky (1976, cited in Cassidy, 1997, p. 3) states that “The physical environment that we construct is as much a social phenomenon as it is a physical one”.

Another French psychologist, Claude Levy-Leboyer (1982, p. 15, cited in Cassidy, 1997, p. 3) also states that “The physical environment simultaneously symbolises, makes concrete, and conditions the social environment.”

Additionally, many researchers conclude that there is an explicit relationship between the physical characteristics of school buildings and educational outcomes. Poor school conditions make it more difficult for teachers to deliver, affect their health and increase the likelihood that teachers will leave the teaching profession. (Schneider, 2003, cited in Spencer and Blades, 2006, p. 99).

Presently, there has been a growing concern for the greening of the environment because of climate change and global warming; some colour-coding concerns are necessary. For example, some classrooms or schools are sited in a green environment, and inside the building are colours of the rainbow. Artists are as much enthusiastic and concerned of the phenomena of the colours in a child’s learning and in mixing and analyzing texture of colours in their activities as artists. The physical environment in school should be of profound importance.

Aside from architecture, colour, and other physical attributes, the use of timber can provide warmth and pleasing environment to a nursery school (Gauzin-Müller, 2002, p. 172).

This means the use of materials is also given focus and importance. A school building which is made of timber can provide more environmental importance to a child’s learning process. There is the appeal of the timber because it is a part of nature. When it is applied with colour, there is more appeal and its effects are different to the eyes. When the building is cement, the colour applied is a different thing. Besides, the colour chemical delivers a more different texture when it is applied on timber – it is more pleasant and appealing to the eyes.

Gimbel (1997), Pile (1997), and Rubida Research (2001) (all cited in Spencer and Blades, 2006, p. 99) state that ‘carefully planned colour schemes can influence attendance, promote positive feelings about the school and also muscular tension and motor control.’

Modern School Buildings

This portion of the study provides focus on the importance of colour in a classroom setting: what is colour in its application on the architecture of the school as it affects the child’s learning environment?

“A creative, stimulating and interactive environment is absolutely necessary for the development of young minds. A good built environment gives children the freedom, space and flexibility to understand the world they live in. The school building is probably their first exposure to design, materials and textures outside their home environment.” (Magazine – Inside-Outside March 1999, cited in Shah et al., 2002, p. 65)

This preceding quote is a prime importance in this study, for it truly summarizes this next chapter on school buildings that provide temporary home to the children in school.

What we should give importance are the design, the materials, and the colour. An ideal architectural design for a school building provides emphasis on the factors mentioned.

Lighting is an important part of the environment of the classroom, and since colour is light (Cullen and Warrender, 2001, p. 16), it gives the more reason to give attention on colour and the kinds of colour in the school and in the classroom.

A fascinating study was conducted by Mark Dudek (2000) on existing pre-school and nursery buildings in the UK. He said that one of the primary requirements which distinguishes pre-school from the needs of the later secondary school environment is the need to ‘fascinate’ young children through an architecture which is in itself playful. This can be termed as playful architecture which is viewed by some as a requirement in primary school environments.

One of his findings is that ‘where young children experience an environment which is light-hearted and distracting in its own right, then they will be more willing to participate in the life of the institution.’ (Dudek 2000, p. 75)

The catch here is ‘distracting’ which is not to mean to disturb the child’s attention, but to ‘get’ his attention in order for the child to participate in the school lessons and activities.

However, the atmosphere should be light and engaging, and the distraction should not be too much or so-called “Disney-esque”.

Dudek also adds colour to the space provided for the building. He says that the space can be articulated by using a limited range of rich primary colours, such as: a blue and green in the entrance hall and red, blue, yellow and green to distinguish each classroom area, orange for the kitchens and turquoise in the courtyards. (Dudek, 2000, p. 75)

The colours are mixed and adapted to the mood of the space and never used in their primary factory condition. The physical structure changes with the application of colour. Dudek further adds that the use of transparent polycarbonate panels in one of the entrance walls made the structure of the building robust. (Dudek, 2000, p. 76)

Building

An example of a Nursery school with a slight touch of colour, warm to the eyes and feel of the children. SOURCE: Adapted from Sustainable Architecture and Urbanism, by Gauzin-Müller (2002, p. 170)

We can notice how the children feel comfortable and at ease in their environment which seem not to appear like a school. It has the appearance of a home with warmth and a wholesome atmosphere. A school like this can provide good learning for the children.

Mark Dudek (2000) relates his various studies of school architectures. He says that ‘the use of artificial lighting within the classroom environment is an important factor’ (p. 67).

In the picture, the colour is illuminated with a light that is not so bright but in fact it adds the effect of the colour. We can appreciate the inside of the building even though it is just a picture.

Dudek (2000, p. 67) cites an example of a school which was a subject to a close focus study of its lighting. This was the Mary Mcleod Bethune Elementary School in Rochester, New York. There was the discreet use of surface colour reflected up into the space by uplighters, and this provided warmth.

Professor Peter Tregenza (cited in Dudek, 2000), a lighting specialist of the University of Sheffield School of Architecture, stated that ‘electric lightning, daylighting, view and colour are interlinked in design.’

People prefer homes that appear daylit to those where electric lighting is dominant. The changing pattern of daylight playing on the surfaces of a room provides information about the world outside. Its natural variation tells of the weather and the time of day.

The best classroom does not necessarily rely entirely on daylight: there are many factors that limit the area of glazing. Some are environmental – for instance, dazzle from direct sunlight and thermal discomfort from large windows must be minimized. The optimum solution is usually one in which electric lighting is designed specifically to be used in conjunction with daylight during daytime hours.

Electric lighting must increase room brightness in spaces distant from windows and provide additional illumination where needed for tasks or display; but it must not swamp the natural variation of daylight.

Such design leads to the most economic use of energy: several research studies have shown that whether measured in lifetime monetary costs or in primary energy, the lowest costs occur when daylight and electric lighting are designed to be used together during daytime hours. (Dudek 2000, p. 67)

Rhodes and Leon (2005, p. 33) argue that ‘Frequently the architecture of public buildings is infinitely superior to their interior decorations. How colourless and dingy are many railway stations; and yet what vivid, poignant dramas are staged in this milieu – lover’s meetings, anguished partings, bridal journeys, and sometimes the last journey of all.”

It seems there is a much admired development and great progress for school architecture in the UK. Dudek (2005, p. 145) states:

In Britain, we have moved from a period in the history of schools’ architecture – the 1930s – in which no time at all has been allowed for architect-pupil collaboration, a time when … even ‘progressive educators thought “architecture” as such was to be avoided for schoolchildren’.

Dudek referred to a twelve-week intensive consultation exercise with all the concerned parties, like the pupils, staff, parents and the community, which identified problems, discussed and debated on ideas about a beautiful and functional school for children. This led to a building plan to address the immediate architectural needs of the school environment.

Indeed, a well-established plan and architecture for an educational institution can only be possible with such an undertaking. And Dudek is one of those who have advocated the use of colour to be applied in school architecture.

And the exercise that Mark Dudek mentioned seems to be an ideal activity for planners, architects, and local governments. This is to plan a well-designed architecture where even the children are involved. The children can be consulted on their feelings and opinion on how they can be helped, in a manner of speaking, in having a school or classroom that can truly give them an environment that is conducive to educational learning.

A school needs architectural style which is sympathetic, cheerful and colourful. A good site or location is one of the prime necessities of a good school. It must be central to the area it serves and must have plenty of open space for a playground and for future expansion.

Trees planted in groups, lawns, fountains, walkways, benches on the side of roads, play areas and benches to watch games are also required. Provision of residential units for the headmaster, teaching and administrative staff, chowkidar, gardener and auxiliary services is also necessary.

In the child’s early process, we can notice the importance of play.

“The early childhood field has long recognized the many ways pretend play nourishes children’s well-being and promotes emotional, social, cognitive, and imaginative development” (Bergen, 1988; Johnson, Christie, & Wardle, 2005; Russ, 1994; D. G. Singer & Singer, 1990; Smilansky & Shefatya, 1990, all cited in Hyson et al., 2006, p. 11)

This means that the physical environment in the classroom or in school should be conducive and convenient for play and games for the young pupils. The aim is to provide a homey atmosphere for the children, and so that they would not encounter any accident and traumatic experiences in school. These traumatic experiences can hinder the child’s growth and development. (Eysenck, 2009, p. 22)

On the other hand, regarding the architecture of school buildings, it should be in line with the program of adequate playing environment for the children.

Architecture is about colour and the spread of light in a building. If colour is not that admirably spread, and light cannot be felt so warmly, there is no sense in architecture; meaning architecture is a failure, or there must be something wrong. Architecture is about the smooth flow of light and colour that can be warmly felt up to the soul of the one seeing it.

Moreover, normal illumination is needed in good and fine architecture. There are two aspects needed to be in a normal illumination atmosphere, and they are:

  • under high levels of cool light, such as fluorescent or halogen light, and
  • under low levels of warm light, such as candlelight or firelight (Birren, 1982, p. 36, cited in Miller, 1997, p. 126).

This is an atmosphere which provides cold, birth light at midday and the warm glow of sunset. The environment does not appear normal under high levels of warm light or low levels of cold light.

Luckily people still have enough romantic feeling not to want to throw out every light source which does not resemble daylight. We still love to sit by the wood fire in our fireplaces, or sing and dance around the campfire. Candlelight makes our dinner more intimate and full of atmosphere. We also choose lamplight instead of “daylight imitating” lights for our ordinary living quarters. (Gerritsen, 1983, pp. 31-31, cited in Miller, 1997, p. 126)

The physical temperature of light is the opposite of its perceived temperature. This is described as:

  • The higher the physical temperature of light, the bluer or colder it appears.
  • The lower the physical temperature, the redder or yellower or warmer it appears.

The proper choice of light should be given consideration. The physical temperature of light is based on the principle of black-body radiation. When an iron bar is slowly heated, its color changes from black to invisible infrared, to dull red, then orange, yellow, blue, and at its highest temperature it becomes white hot. (Gardner and Hannaford, 1993, p. 5, cited in Miller, 1997, p. 125).

On the kinds of light, it is good to mention Tungsten halogen lamp which is a refinement of the incandescent tungsten lamp. However, the perceived effect of fluorescent lighting is ‘at best flat and bland and at worst cold and unfriendly’ –which is never quite as good as daylight or equivalent incandescent sources.” (Miller, 1997, p. 126)

Sitting in an office under incandescent light, another office across the street or court illuminated by fluorescent light will appear bluish. Or in the reverse situation, the incandescent-lit office will look yellowish to anyone sitting in a fluorescent-lit room. (Birren, 1982, p. 42, cited in Miller, 1997, p. 127)

Summary

Colour psychology includes the early years’ learning environment which involves school architecture and the proper application of colour in school, inside the classroom, and at home where the child first encounters learning.

Colour is part of the architecture; it affects architecture. And the kind of architecture in school should involve a thorough planning with the understanding of children’s unique perceptions. This is so because, as discussed, psychology can affect the learning process; it helps in the growth and development.

The children who are in school practically the whole day should have a kind of atmosphere that is relaxing and wholesome, and not intimidating and distracting. Architecture, with the proper application of colour, can do it.

The physical environment has to be properly managed, if not the children will suffer.

Colour psychology is a part of environmental psychology; this is where the environment is focused on the physical environment, but not to leave behind what we also call social psychology. Environmental psychology involves physical and social environment.

In our study of colour and the physical environment, we have focused on the classroom, the structures in school, and the buildings in and surrounding the environment of the children.

We also gave emphasis on the nursery which is the early years’ learning environment. The nursery is the pre-school years that could be up to three or four years old children.

Architecture should provide an atmosphere that can fascinate children, enhance their learning process, and make their stay in school wholesome and memorable. The style must be sympathetic, cheerful and colourful.

Architecture also includes proper and good site or location to give the prime necessities of a good school. It must be central to the area it serves and must have plenty of open space for a playground and for future expansion.

The school environment may include nature with trees planted in groups, lawns, fountains, walkways, benches on the side of roads, play areas and benches to watch games are also required.

All these contribute to an environment that can provide a wholesome learning environment of the child.

Conclusion

Colour psychology can improve and enhance the learning process of a child. If colour and light can be seen as detrimental to health, this is because it is badly applied. The use of nature’s colours can create a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere.

Colour affects the school environment. Empirical studies have proven that colour is believed to influence student attitudes, behaviours and learning, more so on student attention span.

School architecture which involves space and lighting, and other constructions and arrangements inside the classroom greatly affects the children’s attention on the subject matter being discussed in class; in short the entire learning environment.

Colour appears on objects because of light; hence, poor or inadequate lighting inside the classroom can influence student attention and behaviour.

Stages in human development and behaviour are represented by colours, but not only are they represented, colour itself can alter development and behaviour.

Whilst the children are learning, all unnecessary distractions should be avoided, if not minimised. What do they feel and acquire if primary and bright colours are applied in the walls or in the blackboards? These certainly are distracting and cannot provide warmth and engaging atmosphere for the students.

The role of architecture in the application of colour, in the movement or manipulation of light in building construction and in the classroom, cannot be taken for granted. Architecture can make it appear dark or daylit; it can enhance colour and the beauty inside.

Architecture should play a pivotal role in the growing up and the early learning years of the children by the application of a truly architectural design that can enhance learning, transform the classroom into a warm and comfortable atmosphere to make school time and learning enjoyable and memorable.

This is not a very difficult or tiresome job of the architect; in fact, it is only a matter of applying the right principles of architecture. As we have discussed, transforming the classroom into something like daylit even if it is night time can make one’s perception so pleasing.

Colours have to be manipulated, played out, and very pleasing to the children’s perception. It must not hurt our eyes, nor make us tiresome and feel retiring. The architect can do it by applying creativity and imagination and the simple rules of architecture, colour texture and manipulation, and proper thinking.

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