Should schools be comfy... or the opposite?


Our power went out on Tuesday. 'Twas a wind storm — a nice, big one! — and it knocked out the powergrid for most of our town. We were reduced to the technology of a century ago.

We had to make our own light (candles), our own heat (a fire), and our own music (carols, hymns, and classic Americana sung from the ol' songbook). We cooked hamburgers on a kerosene stove that Kristin had coincidentally purchased the day before. We fell asleep in our sleeping bags, curled up around the hearth.

The kids loved it. We sorta did, too.

There's something wonderful about being uncomfortable. Flourishing and austerity are at least occasionally in cahoots.

And it's making me wonder what the role of discomfort might be in a school that prizes human well-being.

I've been noting how much our children crave extreme variation. They seem to hate perpetual moderate light — they need moments of bright light, and moments of darkness. Ditto loud sound and silence, hot and cold, and rough and smooth.

And I feel this way, too. I'm puzzling over whether how much of this is a random genetic fluke of our family, and how much it's a general human trait.

We design our buildings for comfort, and surely there's much wisdom in that. But are we missing anything? Should the physical design of a school — and the design of a school day — include discomfort?

If so, of what kinds?

How can we build in discomfort to a school for humans?