The following guidelines, developed by Kim Holleman, define the characteristics and design principles of the Wildflower classroom and serve as a guide to those involved in the build-out process of new schools.
The hallmark of Wildflower interiors is their use of natural, sustainable materials integrated with nature-based themes in the interior design and artwork.
What might not be visible to the naked eye in the designs, are underlying health-conscious, earth-conscious, synergistic and holistic design principles guiding all choices. When any piece or part gets sacrificed from these principles, it’s less likely that a fully realized Wildflower School interior can be created.
When all of the criteria for the interior designs are met, there is an assurance that a true Wildflower School is being created and the maximum health and beauty of the school and its members can be ensured.
These guidelines and principles help make all of the design choices clear and easy to understand.
- designed and built as a green school
- certified and maintained as a green school
- follows from a natural theme/color scheme
- incorporates natural materials
- removes and replaces any non-environmentally friendly or toxic materials
- incorporates hand-built, locally sourced and sustainable materials
- can use up-cycled, reused and reclaimed materials
- caters to the specific aesthetic preferences of the head of school
Look very carefully at objects and materials you wish to use.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Is this made out of solid wood, or is this a composite material?
Is this pure metal, or is it a lower quality alloy which can more easily break?
Is this an item with it’s own history?
Is this an item which I would want to hand down in my family?
Is this an item which I can give away to someone once I am through with it?
Steps to Designing a Wildflower Classroom:
The Head of School sets the tone and mood inside the classroom. It is a worthwhile goal to create a school interior which evokes the feeling of being in the most beautiful place they personally can imagine. The energetic effects of this cultivate a positive experience for everyone involved including the students and parents.
1. Choose a Theme.
All Wildflower Schools operate on a specified nature theme, so that every design choice made after step one- is chosen to enhance, represent or speak to that theme. The theme should be chosen by the Head of School. Here are some general examples:
2. Choose your Colors.
Limit your choices to 3-5 colors which enhance your theme. These should be chosen by the Head of School.
3. Choose your Flooring.
Choose your Wall covering (Grasscloth or other Natural Fibre) and/or
4. Choose your Paint.
Ask specifically for the lowest possible VOC that is manufactured.
Write every choice down and keep records of all of your purchases.
All of the materials used in making your school should be natural materials, or a material which meets the most stringent environmental standards which exist. Since natural, non endangered materials do not degrade, these materials are always preferable.
Materials to Choose:
Look, as often as possible, to use hand-built materials by local craftspeople. Tables, chairs and shelves should all be handmade and can be ordered locally. You may also choose vintage, repurposed, up-cycled and antique hand-crafted items.
Contact the lumber yards which are local to you and ask about their reclaimed and formaldehyde free woods with which to build. This adds an element of reuse and history to the materials which build the school.
Many times there are items and elements from other cultures that we prize and value and may not be available locally. We still value the artistic craftsmanship and importance of these things and there are ways to include them in thoughtful way. Search and find your local Fair Traders Importers. When in doubt, ask for the company’s environmental policy statement and/or their fair trade/exploitation-free commitment statement. For imported carpets, search for a local carpet dealer who offers vintage and antique carpets. For new imported carpets, search a dealer who has a Local/Global artisan initiative or buy a vintage piece. Another thing to look for in choosing where to spend your money is with locally owned companies that give to a humanitarian, environmental or educational charity as part of their business model.
What to Avoid
Because all “big-box” and chain stores make materials choices based on cost, you can be assured that any item purchased from them will be of the lowest possible quality while still looking fashionable and attractive on the surface. None of these items are hand-built or hand-made and so everything about them is different from items made by a craftsperson or a designer-or even a “hobby” builder.
What most people don’t know is that the principle of Planned Obsolescence is built into chain, store-bought items, so even what is considered the “higher end” products are built to break down or to become noticeably out of fashion in roughly 3, 5 and 7 years. While wood and metal can last 100+years, composite materials will always breakdown, it’s just a matter of time.
Here are some examples of what to avoid:
Imported, packaged items
Chemical-laden particle board
MDF (Medium Density Fiberboard, used in cabinetry)
HDF (High Density Fiberboard, used in cabinetry)
Oils and lead paint
Non-LEED composite materials
Petro-chemical based materials
Synthetic fabrics and carpets
Leather or suede of any kind (the chemical process used to make leather and suede is toxic and environmentally unfriendly. Most modern leather and suede also contain harsh chemical dyes)
What’s Worth the Cost
Spend the money on the floors, walls, lighting plumbing, and nature. Get real hardwood, or a LEED ‘certified for schools’ laminate flooring.
Use only real wood for furniture, built-ins and planters. Always prioritize sustainable when using plywood of any kind, for any reason, ask all builders or shoppers to use and buy only formaldehyde-free plywood, with the highest Environmental rating.
Use only real grasscloth for the walls or cork for the floors, for example, and ask the installers to use an environmentally friendly adhesive. If no wallpaper is preferred, use low VOC paints instead.
Choose low-flow toilets and sink fixtures.
Look for proper lighting fixtures which give a full spectrum of light whenever possible, but plan to use as much daylight as your main source of light as possible.
Have an HVAC technician in to assess the indoor air quality. Remove any old systems or ACs and upgrade to ensure good air quality and energy efficient heat indoors.
Use recycled/shredded paper for drainage under your dirt and soil for eco-tectural elements and food gardens/movable planters. A happy, lush and verdant environment produces happier educators, students and parents and contributes to the highest levels of air quality.
Likewise- commissioning, purchasing and acquiring works of art enhances the interior and is an important part of the school’s interior design as well as providing the opportunity for children, educators and parents to reap the benefits of engaging with fine art in a positive everyday context.
Taking Care of Animals in the Classroom
The first rule of thumb in the housing of small creatures in the environment of the classroom is to strive to be a habitat provider and not an animal “jailer”. Animals are “people too” and how we care for them is a mirror of how we care for all living things. Perhaps it is also best to think of the animals as being housed temporarily in the classroom and then returned to their proper environment after a short period of time. Opinions on this topic may vary.
Taking Care of Plants in the Classroom
Plants, like children require some doting and care in the form of water, sunlight and pruning.
If your plants die, please replace them with a different variety to see if a different type of plant fares better in the area where you would like it to be planted. Rotate the planters and plants whenever possible. Please strive to record and write down all your choices, even taking pictures of each plant as an evolving archive of your school’s green space.
Taking Care of Art in the Classroom
Just like art in a museum or small animals in a terrarium or a porcelain cup, we have to treat the art with the utmost care. Please always use gloves when handling and hanging and never put your fine art on the bare floor or a dirty surface. Please also ask any helpers to follow the same guidelines.
Taking Care of the Green Classroom
Because cleaning practices contribute to the continuing certification for Green Classroom Certification, as well as the health of the students and educators, please use cleaners or services from the environmentally approved list of cleaners and green cleaning practices.
Make classrooms and learning spaces healthier and more sustainable
• Support green building and sustainability
• Provide a healthier classroom
• Provide the best environment for student success
• Foster appreciation among children for sustainable practices
• Create a healthier indoor environment for teachers and students