Thursday, July 25, 2019

Nature Themed Classroom Decor: A Calming and Plant Filled Classroom

My first ever high school classroom was nature-themed, and I'm now I'm bringing it back for a middle school teacher in my area! While I don't have any pictures from that teaching era, I can paint you a picture of what I looked like: I printed some of my favorite hiking pictures to display around the room, hung a giant stick with twinkle lights from the ceiling, and incorporated plants wherever I could! Using a nature theme is great for classroom decor on a budget because you can go on a nature scavenger hunt and find all kinds of free elements to use in your woodland classroom! As for the classroom makeover that I'm working on now, I have a slightly larger budget than I used back when I was a new teacher (basically zero), but I still want to keep this project within a realistic cost so that other teachers can create this beautiful and budget-friendly design in their own classrooms!

Classroom Before and After: 

Classroom Plan and Cost: 

To challenge myself to think creatively and to make this a realistic classroom makeover, I stuck to these guidelines: 

3 Days: 

I normally spend around a week prepping my room, but I've noticed that teachers with families or other responsibilities don't have nearly that much time to devote to prepping their classrooms. I live for this stuff so I take great joy spending more time, but I wanted to limit myself to make this doable for other teachers. (Plus I may or may not actually be doing two rooms in addition to this one this year LOL). 

3 Hundred Dollars: 

I did a scale poll on Instagram and the results showed that a realistic yet reasonable price range for classroom decor is around $300. That's where I got this number. If you don't have three hundred dollars to design your classroom, don't feel bad!!! You can still create a beautiful space on a much smaller budget. If fact, the feedback that made me the proudest from last year's Classroom Design Challenge was teachers leaving comments that my challenge actually saved them money compared to other years!

"I loved your step by step guide to transforming the classroom. More often than not, our classrooms resemble prisons, not 21st-century learning environments. I loved the tips you were able to provide that allowed teacher's advice on how to transform our classrooms on a budget! I’ve learned a lot from you and the links you’ve provided to help me redesign my classroom. Particularly the floor planner program and how to remove a background from an image. Thanks so much for doing this!" -@britteaches 

"This was such an awesome challenge that you put together because not only was it fun but it also allowed me to make an intentional plan for my classroom so that it was cohesive and saved me a ton of money." @mrcspillsthetea

Here is my classroom setup cost: 
(These are affiliate links that help make my Classroom Design Challenge possible. I get a small percentage when you use my links at no costs to you. Thank you!)

1. Birch Tree Wallpaper 23.98 x 2 (47.96)- If you have cinder block walls, you can either use peel and stick or plain paper attached with hot glue, both work beautifully. You could also use wrapping paper for your classroom walls and use staples (sheetrock) or hot glue (cinder block) to adhere to it! For example, here's a 64 sq ft roll of Birch wrapping paper for 11.99! The peel and stick I linked above covers 31 sq ft at 23.98 and the plain roll covers 57 sq ft at 32.99. If you have help, the peel and stick works best, but if you are working solo, the plain paper with hot glue is easier to manage. No matter which you go with, don't make the same mistake I did. BUY THE SAME KIND. My peel and stick roll has a different appearance from my plain roll. Hopefully, it's not too noticeable, but please save yourself the irritation and buy either all peel and stick or all plain.

2. Famous Wooden Classroom Wall 20.57 - I try not to use expected things when I can help it, but I just couldn't pass up the Fadeless Bulletin Board Paper that looks so homey and woodland! I used it as a background for my Nature Themed Literary Device Posters . I had a lot of this paper left over, so I used it as a backing on the bookshelves as well!

3. Forest Artwork 18.99- As for my big-scale art (always best for big classroom walls), I actually used a shower curtain that costs 18.99! To make this look like art instead of a shower curtain, I hot glued two $4 light pieces of wood right on top of the fabric and then hung it with wire. If you want a video of this, you can find it under my Instagram Story Highlight titled "Nature Theme" @BuildingBookLove

4. Reading Tent 27.99- Since this classroom is going to be for sixth graders, I thought it would be fun to incorporate a reading tent. There's just something so magical about a little tent with string lights. I adore how it turned out!

5. Stump Flexible Seating Cushions 14.99 x 4 (59.96)-  These stump floor pillows are a cute and functional form of flexible seating. I love that the covers can be taken off and washed if they get dirty. You also can't beat the price!

As for the other flexible seating options, I found two clearanced chairs from Walmart ($5 each = $10) and then used items that this teacher had collected from yard sales. See the black chairs pictured below. One big tip I have for new teachers who are setting up their classrooms for the first time is to collect neutral items. I simply added teal pillows to these black chairs and it tied them into her new theme.

6. Lamps (free)- I already have lamps that I'm bringing from my barn storage. If I didn't have these, I would use thrift store lamps. I never buy new lamps for my classroom because they are one of the easiest things in the world to thrift! You can spray paint them to match your theme and not worry about if they get broken or not!

7. Macrame Plant Hangers 25.99- This classroom has a long wall full of windows, so I just knew that I wanted to incorporate plants into this design! Though I've never been much of a plant lady, I must admit that the moment I brought these plants into the classroom, it went from feeling to a cinder block cell to welcoming learning space. Here's an informative article on the benefits of using plants in the classroom, and here's a practical article which plants grow bests in dark classrooms

8. Magic Crystals That Create Rainbows in the Sunlight 9.99- After reading my new favorite nonfiction book Joyful by Ingrid Fetell Lee, I've been on a mission to create a sense of wonder and magic within my spaces. These little crystals will hang in front of a window and will not only look pretty, but will also give rainbows at unexpected times throughout the school day!

The number one question I get asked is how I hang items such as the plants. The answer is these GENIUS track ceiling hooks from Amazon.  HOWEVER, before you purchase these, you must check your state's fire codes and your school's rules. Some states and schools will not allow you to hang items from the ceiling. Also, this is a very large pack and you won't need nearly this many hooks, so possibly go in halfsies with a friend or ask your school to stock them.

9. Wood Tone Star Light Projector 19.19- Likewise, I couldn't do this classroom makeover without incorporating my favorite classroom transformation tool ever! Turing my starlight projector on at strategic times such as an introduction to Macbeth or a forest scene in Lord of the Flies helps set the mood and change the whole look of my classroom in under a minute! If you don't want to spend $25 on one of these, you could achieve a similar feel for free by using ambient sounds. My favorite nature sounds video right now is Harry Potter Inspired Ambience - Firenze's Divination Classroom - Woodland and Stars in castle

If you are keeping tabs, I'm at 240.64. That means I had 59.36 left in thrifting and plant buying money. I'm happy to say that I met my goal! The plants I found were $4 each at Walmart and I spent around $20 on pillows. If you see anything else in this post that I didn't include in my budget, that means that it was something I found in her storage closet. It's always best to reuse what you can!

3 Resources 

1. Nature Posters and Labels-  For this nature-themed classroom makeover, I used three of my resources. The most important resource I used in regards to the look of the room is my Nature-themed Classroom Decor Bundle. 

I include lots of editable elements into this bundle, so this teacher has been going wild creating her own matching labels. :) 

2. Classroom De-stressing Station- The other most important resource I used in regards to calm classroom feel I was going for is this destressing station I made. I am in love with the concept of this table. I think that it will be a perfect place for students reconnect with nature and destress with rock stacking, zen gardening, and nature journaling.

The mini Zen gardens were fun, cheap, and easy to make! I found the containers, rocks, and forks a the Dollar Tree and the sand at Walmart. The sand I got was pretty rocky, so I suggest using smoother sand if you can find it. White fine sand would be so pretty! I might also suggest not using the red forks that come in the pack because red can be an anger-triggering color which is the opposite of what you are trying to create.

If you want to add this supportive mental health resource to your own classroom, you can grab your free download here:

3. Literary Classroom Yoga- Lastly, I included one of my favorite and best-selling resources,  Literary Yoga for the classroom. Movement in the classroom is so important to me that I keep this classroom yoga resource on display year-round.

This lesson matches yoga poses to literary elements so that you can add movement and promote critical thinking in your English class. Research shows that sitting for long periods of time is horrible for both our brains and bodies. While we know that movement in the classroom is important, due to the nature of English classes, ELA students often find themselves needing to sit to read or write for long periods of time. Therefore, finding ways to add movement in your English literature class can be a challenge. This literary yoga resource is the perfect solution for adding movement in the English classroom.

I hope that this classroom decor post has inpired you to create a classroom that makes you and your students happy!  If you would like help with designing your own classroom, I hope that you will sign up for my FREE classroom design course.

Much peace and love,
Ashley Bible at Building Book Love

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