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Does the weather affect our learning?

On a flight back to London Gatwick airport from Jamaica, Montego Bay after spending one month soaking up the Caribbean sun, drinking coconut water and relaxing under the almond tree, I browsed the papers to read the latest UK news.

Exam Alert, your brain fades as the sun shines! I agree with this article, published in The Times. Read the full article here

I have been delivering work skills training for over 10 years to a range of learners including the long term unemployed and young people who are not in education, employment or training. From my recent observation, especially during this year’s summer heat-wave learners cognitive ability is reduced compared to when asked to complete activities during cooler temperatures. The increased mercury rising in our classroom is leading to fatigue, slow recall memory and irritation which can easily set in and delay learning and possibly cause low level disruptions.

Tom Whipple writes that ‘Heatwaves are bad news for brainwaves. A study has suggested that while the sunshine might be making us happier it is also making us stupider.’ The article continues to state that ‘Researchers found that people who were exposed to hotter temperatures did significantly less well in cognitive tests. In contrast, those who lived in air-conditioned environments were better able to maintain their mental abilities until the warm weather subsided.’

I have provided 6 tips to help us keep cool in the classroom during the hot summer months.

Tip 1:

Water is KING. Drinking cool glasses of water throughout the day can be enough to bring your body temperature down. I aim to drink at least 2 litres of water a day and drinking cold beverages regularly, such as water and/or diluted fruit juice is essential. Avoid excess alcohol, caffeine (tea, coffee and fizzy drinks) or drinks high in sugar. This can help to avoid heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Tip 2:

Keep rooms cool by opening all windows for ventilation and pulling down blinds.

Tip 3:

Studies show that small breaks helps us retain information better. An idea which has definitely helped me and my learners throughout this heatwave is to run your wrists under a cold tap for five seconds every couple of hours. Because a main vein passes through this area, and the cool water can help to cool the blood.

Tip 4:

Help the environment and turn off the lights. We know that lights create heat, combined with bodies and IT equipment this can easily increase the temperature in a room – causing a mini heat-wave. So where possible, keep lights off to keep cool.

Tip 5:

Keep spare deodorants and wipes available.

Tip 6:

For Teachers - switch up your session plan. My classroom has 10 PC’s, added with 10 learners and my Learning Support, plus myself that is a lot of energy been omitted in the room. So, I'm very strategic in the activities I decide to deliver. For example, no group activities which require learners to move around the room, instead I leave these types of activities to later in the day when it is cooler.

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