Classroom uses ‘green design’ decor to connect with nature

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Jackie Jahfetson

At the top of the third floor of West Science in room 3710 is a classroom with a soft yellow hue painted on the walls, welcoming students with a ray of sunshine. Wood-like desks line the rows. A picture of the Northern Lights on the back wall and rock samples displayed in a cabinet draw attention to the natural elements of the Upper Peninsula. And a shot of green gives the room a real-life effect with a variety of plants stacked between different shelves under fluorescent lights.

What was once an ordinary room has become an experiment to see how NMU can engage students by bringing in natural aspects into a classroom. The changes occurred in January and were led by Susy Ziegler and the Earth Environmental Geographical Sciences (EEGS) Department.

As part of the “Let’s Talk” series, class members from “GC 269: Intro to Sustainability” and others gathered on Friday in room 3710 to educate students and faculty on what biophilic design is, the benefits it entails and how people can incorporate it into their own lives.

When students are confined by brick walls and concrete, it can be difficult to sit in a classroom for hours at a time and it “sections” people off from nature, said junior environmental studies and sustainability major Marissa Lindstrom.

“It’s in our nature to be beings of the earth. We thrive when we’re outside,” Lindstrom said. “We all feel better once we’ve been outside.”

Many students come to NMU because of its physical landscape, Lindstrom said, adding the U.P. is an “all-access” area and students shouldn’t be restrained from seeing the natural components that make this campus unique.

“[Nature] plays such an important role in our lives. It gives us our food, water and controls everything,” she said. “We’re so fortunate to live in a beautiful place, but we don’t often think beyond that. Green design is a way to incorporate that back into our lifestyle and bring joy back into this space.”

With one room, there’s a desire to incorporate this green design initiative on a larger scale, Lindstrom noted. By making small, inexpensive changes in a classroom, students will feel more inclined to get involved with sustainability elsewhere on and off campus, she added.

Students interested in green design at NMU can join a sustainability group on campus such as EcoReps, Lindstrom suggested, adding that speaking about it with professors and department heads is another way to get involved.