Are School Dining Halls Learning Environments?20-08-2015
Dining halls provide pupils with healthy food to fuel them with energy and help them concentrate and learn throughout the school day. It is very important that the school dining hall is seen as a positive experience to ensure pupils eat healthily and remain happy.
But do children learn through their dining experience and can school dining halls and breakout areas be classed as learning environments?
What is a learning environment?
A learning environment refers to a location where students learn – although it’s not limited to a classroom. “Learning environment” has a broad meaning and is often used to talk about a wide variety of settings which can provide educational experiences to children and young adults. These locations are not necessarily found at school – learning environments can take many different forms.
Social interactions and learning environments
Lessons in the classroom are essential to every child’s education, but so are the social interactions between his or her peers outside of class. These interactions are vital to the development of every child as they learn fundamental values such as sharing, co-operating and respecting other children.
Children develop their language, cognitive and social skills through discussion, learning life skills such as negotiation and persuasion. Children learn how to be sensitive to the feelings of others, resolve conflicts and apologise. This is especially important for teenagers as it helps them when they are leaving school and becoming young adults.
As children spend most of the week at school, it is essential for schools to provide them with a caring environment which helps them feel safe and offers them a place to interact socially with each other.
Can dining halls be classed as learning environments?
The Public Health Agency say a good dining experience is essential as it contributes to the wellbeing of children, and encourages good behaviours between them. Creating an environment where the children have to act in a civilised manner gives pupils practice with how they will be expected to act in society by being respectful to others.
Most social interaction happens outside of the classroom – mostly in the playground or breakout areas where they are encouraged to play and talk. This highlights the importance of dining and breakout areas to encourage social development.
In an article, The Telegraph mentioned a Children’s Food Trust (formerly School Food Trust) study which underlined the fact that improving the dining experience “can improve pupils’ concentration by almost a fifth”. Children who eat healthy food in a good environment can concentrate more during classes, and are more likely to remember the information taught in class. This study demonstrates that lunchtime has a direct impact on a students’ ability to focus in class and on their personal development.
As seen above, dining halls and breakout areas are key learning environments. Hygienic, enjoyable dining areas are very important to foster children’s development throughout their school years and give them a solid foundation to assist them in future social situations. Social skills will be useful throughout life, including in further education, employment and personal life.
The design of a dining hall is important in aiding the learning potential within the area. Our designers are experts at creating dining areas that stimulate learning and development and aid social interaction.
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To view our dining and breakout spaces case studies, please click here.