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Psychologist turned photographer is bringing nature into classrooms for better learning

He decided to bring the joy of nature into the classroom to relieve children from the clutches of anxiety.

Psychologist turned photographer is bringing nature into classrooms for better learning
Representative Cover Image Source: Pexels | veeterzy; CBS | Ernesto Rodriguez

Children's interaction with nature and physical exertion rejuvenates their minds and bodies. Despite so many benefits, in recent times, it has been noted that children's participation in outdoor play has been significantly reduced. The kids are getting pushed towards gadgets rather than engaging with nature. Former school psychologist Ernesto Rodriguez opposes these behavioral patterns and believes that for the good of children, it is vital that they develop a relationship with nature, per CBS News. Through his endeavors as a photographer, he is attempting to bring a change in these patterns and get children to enjoy the beauty of nature.

Representative Image Source: Pexels | Luis del Río
Representative Image Source: Pexels | Luis del Río

In his experience as a school psychologist, Rodriguez has seen many classrooms with no windows. These kinds of setups harm children as nature acts as a great agent to remove anxiety. This assertion has been comprehensively proven by research conducted by MaryCarol R. Hunter, per Frontiers. The former school psychologist dismisses the arrangement after experiencing the power of nature in his present job as a park ranger on Southern California's Catalina Island. On the job, he has also taken up landscape photography, where he attempts to capture nature's appeal and spread it to others.


Being within nature, he slowly began to study it more and found out that the age-old contempt against students losing their focus and looking outside the window was unfounded. It had major benefits. "Kids who have views out windows to trees do better academically, emotionally, and creatively. And more graduate and go to college," he said. "I thought, why isn't this being used?" It was then he decided to take up the pursuit of bringing nature to the classroom. He took hospital curtains and printed the landscapes he had captured on them. The photographer zeroed in on ceilings to fix those curtains. "Having been a school psychologist, you don't touch teacher's walls. You do that and they cut your hand off–both of them," Rodriguez quipped. "So I thought, well, let's use the ceiling because they don't typically use the ceiling."

Rodriguez's landscapes mostly feature tree canopies and when children look up at the ceiling, they quite literally feel that they are sitting under a tree. Moreover, he ensures that he incorporates all the elements science has proven to reduce anxiety, from warm tones to soothing colors. The photographer does his work through "Nature in the Classroom," a non-profit he established. Till now, he has installed canopies in 10 school districts. The latest one is Taft Elementary in Santa Clara, California. After he showed his installation to the fifth-grade classroom, they were elated. A student, Octavio, appreciated the change. "It is surprising to see because any time you're inside of a school, you mostly don't see plants. Or trees. But now it's surprising to see that there are trees here," he said. "I would say that it's pretty great and beautiful."


The instructor, Logan Earnest, believes the installation will increase children's interest in the classroom. "I think my attendance is going to go up. I think kids are going to want to come in here more frequently. Overall, I think the kids are going to be happier," he said. Rodriguez loves that he can bring both of his professions together in some way and encourages others to test the power of nature by stepping outside.



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