Whether classroom decorations are being used to celebrate a holiday, showcase student achievement or reinforce a learning concept, proper school decorations safety is necessary to ensure that items intended to enhance the learning experience don't become hazardous for the students.
Why Teachers Decorate
Teachers decorate their classrooms for a variety of reasons. A bright bulletin board can increase student enthusiasm for a new unit, holiday themes can harness excitement for learning, and a generally fun, decorated classroom is one in which students will be more eager to learn. Decorations can be purely ornamental or they can be focused on units of study, but they must always be safe.
Even well-intentioned decorations could pose serious risks to students if used incorrectly. Possible hazards from decorations include:
- Fires: Too much clutter on classroom or hallway walls can spread fires more quickly.
- Poisoning: Some decorations may be made with toxic substances and could be hazardous if young students were to unwittingly taste them.
- Falls: Items that are improperly secured may fall and injure students.
- Trips: A classroom cluttered with decorations has more trip hazards for unwary students.
- Cuts: Paper cuts are common from foil and paper decorations, while glass items could break into dangerous shards.
- Distractions: While distracting decorations aren't likely to cause injuries, students' grades can suffer because they can't focus on their lessons.
School Decorations Safety Tips
To minimize the risks of classroom decorations but still enjoy a fun, colorful atmosphere, teachers should put decorations up carefully and safely.
Tips applicable to all types of decorations include:
- Only use decorations in their intended fashion and read all display instructions before use.
- Do not block fire alarms, emergency signs or exits with decorations.
- Confine decorations to suitable spaces such as bulletin boards. Covering windows and ceilings with additional decorations increases the amount of combustible material in the classroom and increases fire risks.
- Never hang decorations from light fixtures, sprinkler heads, vents or radiators.
- Choose decorations with flame resistant coatings.
- Fasten flags, posters, papers and other decorations flat to the wall to minimize exposed edges that could cause cuts or increase fire risks.
- Fasten all items securely for their weight to reduce the risk that they may loosen and fall.
- When removing decorations, be sure to remove all strings, staples and other materials used to hold the decorations.
- Store decorations safely and out of reach of students.
- Do not allow students to climb on desks or other unsafe surfaces to help decorate.
Most teachers, particularly in elementary schools, decorate for different holidays. While they are beautiful, holiday decorations pose extra risks that need additional school decorations safety precautions.
- If using twinkle lights, always check cords for frays or bare wires. Fasten lights securely and do not permit dangling ends that could be choking risks.
- Do not leave lighted decorations on when not in the classroom, especially at night.
- Use only shatterproof, unbreakable decorative items.
- Avoid candy-like decorations that may be a tempting treat for younger students.
- Never use candles or any other decorations with exposed heating elements.
- Avoid fake snow for winter holiday decorations because it may irritate the lungs when sprayed and could pose a toxic hazard.
Additional Safe Learning Environment Tips
However a teacher chooses to decorate the classroom, there are other basic safety tips that can help make it a safe learning environment that students can enjoy without injury risks.
- Keep desks spaced evenly with enough walking room in aisles.
- Keep floors clear of debris and trip hazards.
- Be sure shelves and bulletin boards are securely fastened to the wall.
- Make sure all lighting fixtures operate properly for adequate illumination.
- Post safety information including courtesy rules, evacuation routes and other guidelines clearly.
- Every teacher should have a working telephone in case of emergencies.
- All classrooms should be equipped with first aid supplies.
- Teachers should be aware of basic first aid techniques as well as any special needs for their students, such as the use of an EpiPen for severe allergic reactions.
Decorations are a fun and colorful part of any learning environment, and by following basic school decorations safety tips teachers and students can enjoy the beauty of different decorations while minimizing any potential hazards.