Essential 1: Create and Maintain Safe, Healthy, and Sustaining Learning Environments

  • Why is this essential?

    Students need to feel safe and supported in order to learn. Without safe, healthy and sustaining learning environments, the mind can struggle to focus on content,  making learning nearly impossible (Parrett and Budge 2012; Hammond 2015). Educators in high-performing, high-poverty schools have long recognized the critical importance of providing a healthy, safe, and supportive classroom and school environment (Parrett and Budge 2012).




    1.1 Educators examine their personal biases to become aware of the ways in which their own cultural experiences influence the learning environments that they create for students.

    1.2 Educators express interest in getting to know each student and use what they learn to shape the learning environment.

    1.3 Educators create and maintain a safe, healthy, and sustaining learning environment—and engage students to do the same—by…

    • Supporting and nurturing everyone’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being.
    • Celebrating, valuing, and affirming the diverse identities of colleagues and learners.
    • Maintaining a physical environment with fresh air and sunlight, clean water, comfortable climates, healthy snacks and meals, and increased accessibility.
    • Incorporating physical activity as a part of learning and life

    1.4 Educators create learning spaces and environments that encourage learners to:

    • Take purposeful and intentional ownership of their own learning spaces including walls, furniture configuration, decibel levels, etc.
    • Take risks and share feedback in pursuit of continuous learning (Ghaith, 2003; Kerr, Ireland, Lopes, Craig, & Cleaver, 2004; Finnan, Schnepel, & Anderson, 2003).
    • Listen and think critically to solve problems collaboratively (Durlak, Weissberg, Dymnicki, Taylor, & Schellinger, 2011).
    • Increase self-awareness, use active listening and positive communication
    • Develop healthy, respectful relationships
    • Cooperate and resolve differences
    • Demonstrate empathy, tolerance and community among students and adults.

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