Feng Shui at school??? The power of color, not necessarily coloring!

English: An RGB color wheel which denotes comp...

English: An RGB color wheel which denotes complimentary colors. When Red wavelengths are absorbed, green light is observed, for example. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I picked up a pocket-size book at a used bookstore called Feng Shui For the Classroom by Debra Kellar. I leafed through it and thought that her ideas were interesting. I always like to offer an eclectic approach when I lecture to school based therapists and teachers. My favorite part of the book (so far) has been about the power of color. Kellar suggests teachers should consider color. If they want art, music or creative writing involvement, serene dove-gray may get those creative juices bubbling.  If you have a chance to paint your classroom or therapy room this summer, run over to Lowe’s or Home Depot and pick up a pale yellow. According to Kellar, this is “the color of optimism, focus and mental stimulation”. “The paler shades promote active listening”.  Boy we could use some of that in schools today!!! Brighter yellows that resemble sunshine versus the paler shades can be overstimulating.  Sounds like a sensory processing suggestion to me…Kellar believes we can shift the energy in the classroom by the use of color. Reading times “are enhanced by cool colors and pastels”, no need to paint the walls different colors for different areas but rather use items such as “green leaves, a blue vase, purple flowers or a pink bowl” in your reading circle. Wow! can’t you see one student appointed to gathering the reading colors prior to reading group? Ha… the magic begins. Writing is always an issue for OT’s in the classroom and often not just for the mechanics but for the creative and cognitive content as well.  Keller calls this a “yang” activity and can be influenced by  warm and bright objects of reds, oranges and yellows. Maybe easy buttons on desks, a navel orange or even writing with a red pencil could help the writing process??? I know color influences me, when I choose the color of what I’m wearing for the day, when I enter certain classrooms or even which room in my home I choose to read. Obviously there are other variables such as natural light, furniture placement, and who is in the room with you! Ha Ha… not sure we can remove some negative people…maybe you could offer them your pale yellow sweater? So followers… think about color this week, notice your own habits and if you work with kids, (or have them in your home) notice behavior, demeanor and creativity. Let me know what you found in your laboratory!

Have you looked in a student’s lunch box lately?

Talk about colorful!  But not the colors of lush fresh vegetables and fruits, but rather the advertising  colors, the unreal reds, blues and greens of dyes and other enhancers. The food dyes including Yellow 5, Red 40, and six others, are made from petroleum.  Research is showing that many can cause allergies  hyperactivity and some animal studies are showing a cancer connection.  The European Union and the Brits are making inroads by outlawing most dyes from the food that we are ingesting.  An example of substitution is, beet root for food coloring versus Red 40 which contains petroleum.  My question is why aren’t we doing this in America? These dyes are in everything from soft drinks to potato chips. Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6 make up 90% of the food dyes on the market. There is no nutritional value but companies that are trying to appeal to kids believe that the coloring makes food more fun! That makes me laugh because fun and food for me as a kid was my dad breaking off a piece of rhubarb in the garden, which I dipped in sugar and ate with pursed lips, enjoying the sour, sweet taste was and continues to be an early summer ritual! My grandpa and I would gather food in the garden and although I’m allergic to legumes I could eat raw peas when I was young and they were right out of the pod!  And they weren’t neon green! ha!  The FDA has met and don’t believe the research is solid enough to claim that hyperactivity in kids is a result of the dyes. I’d love for them to take their lunch breaks in a school cafeteria or come to an afternoon circle reading group after lunch!  It seems to me that with all the chatter about obesity and lunch programs,  the artificial dye issues could be tied into the re-vamping of America’s lunch programs.  I applaud schools that provide healthy snacks and lunches at school. It takes more effort than throwing pre-packaged candy, fruit leather, chips, neon pink yogurt and cookies into a lunch box. They know the benefits of a calmer classroom and I’m sure they are reaping them without Red 40, Yellow 5 and 6 etc.!  What an interesting research study that would be, lunch food and it’s relationship to academic attention and focus….hmmmm!

In the summertime…where the stress should be less

“Summer is the time when one sheds one’s tensions with one’s clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit. A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all’s right with the world.” — Ada Louise Huxtable

Ok, I’m going to take you back to an earlier time in your life when school let out for the summer. No matter who you were or where you lived this signified a shift in how you spent your time. As I kid I went to a day camp, was a fish in the water, played “kick the can” until it was dark and enjoyed a later bedtime as well as family from “far away” visiting for some fun in the sun. As a teenager, I worked at a variety of jobs and spent my evenings hanging out with friends, eating lots of ice cream and enjoying the “down time”. As a school based therapist, I’m like a kid as the last day approaches anticipating, sleeping in a bit later, reading more novels, spending time with friends and family and just chilling out. Todays child experiences lots of stress in terms of both academic and social demands. I hear them speak of attending summer school, camps, lessons from computers to baking to Legos and the list goes on….If you are a parent, caregiver or a teacher encourage the kids you know to recognize that summer is a time to have fun but also a time to rest, rejuvenate and rekindle the spirit.  Introduce them to the fun you had as a kid.  Your assignment if you decide to accept it is…make S’mores, catch some fireflies, have ice cream for dinner, watch fireworks on the 4th of July, run through the sprinkler and take that hurried, harried child with you. As Ms. Huxtable implies you’ll soon feel all is right with the world.