Student Well-Being Video

How This School Uses Architecture and Design to Improve Mental Health

By Kaylee Domzalski — January 10, 2023 2:47
JLE Thumbnail 01 BS

When John Lewis Elementary School opened in August 2021, it became the first school in the District of Columbia school system to pursue a WELL Building certification. To get it, the school was designed and built with mental health in mind.

The WELL Building Standard is a set of concepts laid out by the International WELL Building Institute, an organization focused on the relationship between design and health. Those concepts—keying in on air, water, nourishment, light, movement, thermal comfort, sound, materials, mind, community, and innovation—are built off decades of research demonstrating how design can facilitate active learning and childhood development.

“There are myriad strategies that we have for really improving educational outcomes and for improving… the mental health of students, teachers, and staff,” said Rachel Hodgdon, the president and CEO of the IWBI.

Large glass windows that allow for natural light to soak the whole library, geothermal wells that heat the building, pod-style classrooms with garage-style doors that open to collaborative spaces, and increased ventilation are all elements that were designed as part of the certification. And the school itself is part of DCPS’ Capital Improvement Plan, a six-year, $2.5 billion initiative to modernize its facilities.

“We’re here for academics, but if you’re not well, you can’t learn,” John Lewis Elementary’s principal, Nikeysha Jackson, said. “I think this building really supports that and it’s a step in the right direction.”

Jackson also said that, compared to the previous building, she’s seen how the new environment has helped her students focus and changed the way they interact with the space.

“Just the attention to not littering our space. I hear them on the playground [say], ‘Make sure you put it back where you found it,’ ‘Clean up after you’re done,’” Jackson said. “They’re just at a level of consciousness that I’ve never seen before.”

Kaylee Domzalski is a video producer for Education Week, telling meaningful stories that impact the field.

Coverage of whole-child approaches to learning is supported in part by a grant from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, at www.chanzuckerberg.com. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Video

Student Well-Being Video This School Is a Model for Wellness and Student Learning. See Why
The first high school to be WELL Certified at the gold level hopes to serve as inspiration to others.
3:10
English-Language Learners Video Witnessing Change in a 'Little Town for Latinos’: An English Learner’s Journey
Born in Russellville, Ala., to immigrant parents from El Salvador, Brian Santos reflects on his journey as an EL student.
Lauren Santucci & Ileana Najarro
2:48
Brian Santos, a senior at Russellville High School in Russellville, Ala., stands for a portrait at the school Dec. 9, 2022.
Brian Santos, a senior at Russellville High School in Russellville, Ala., stands for a portrait at the school Dec. 9, 2022.
Tamika Moore for Education Week
Teaching Video Teachers, Try This: Build a Lesson Plan Using ChatGPT
One educator explains how teachers can use ChatGPT to create lesson plans, and offers insight and advice on the process and its pitfalls.
3:48
Student Well-Being Video How Districts Can Improve Mental Health Through Building Design
The WELL Building Institute offers ideas for improving student and teacher mental health, including low-cost options like reducing clutter.
4:20