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Essential oils in classrooms

What are the effects of essential oils on students' learning?

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Essential oils in classrooms

A diffuser is used in a classroom while students work.  Photo by Holly McDonald

A diffuser is used in a classroom while students work. Photo by Holly McDonald

A diffuser is used in a classroom while students work. Photo by Holly McDonald

A diffuser is used in a classroom while students work. Photo by Holly McDonald

Holly McDonald, Staff Writer

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A calming scent of lavender fills the classroom air, leaving a pleasant smell. Freshman Evie Ansari takes a deep breath, inhaling the fresh scent of the room. Ansari enjoys having essential oils in classrooms, especially because it helps improve her learning experience by giving her focus.

According to Ansari, teachers who diffuse essential oils in their classrooms can help to create a positive learning environment for students.

“I think that it’s a good idea for teachers to use essential oils,” Ansari said. “Especially on test days, oils help students de-stress or concentrate depending on the kind that’s being used.”

Although essential oils can improve a student’s time in class, science teacher Mrs. Jaclyn Smith stresses that teachers must be aware that artificial scents can be distracting and disrupt learning for some students.

“One particular scent I used once was a little too strong, and some of the students didn’t like it, so I replaced it with a more neutral scent,” Mrs. Smith said. “I always tell my classes if they don’t like it, to let me know, or that they can feel free to turn it off.”

While some scents can be overpowering, using scents that have a fresh smell can provide a welcoming environment.

“Lavender, lemongrass and lemon are a pleasant and gentle blend,” Spanish teacher Ms. Beth East said. “Lavender is calming, while lemongrass is uplifting and pleasant.”

Freshman Taylor Nadjarian has specific scents that she doesn’t enjoy, which can even interrupt her from learning.

“I don’t like strong fruity scents. Artificial fruity smells aren’t very appealing to me,” Nadjarian said. “Some teachers will use too strong or artificial scents that give my classmates and me headaches.”

Although there may be a few scents that aren’t the best for a classroom, there are plenty of scents that students do enjoy.

“I think that lavender is a great oil for the classroom,” Ansari said. “Lavender is a nice smelling oil that most people enjoy and it also is very calming.”

Essential oils aren’t only being used at classrooms within RHS. Mrs. Foutz, a history teacher at West Middle School, an RHS feeder school, shares her experience with using a diffuser in her classroom.

“I have had positive comments about the scents in my classroom, and it’s very least I do to make my classroom feel welcoming,” Mrs. Foutz said. “While I am not sure that the oils help students focus or feel better, I think that students definitely can focus better in a room that feels welcoming.”

Mrs. Foutz uses peppermint and lemon as her go-to scents. She believes that they help create a nice environment for her classroom.

“Peppermint is said to help clear the mind, and I feel that students have a lot going on in their lives,” Mrs. Foutz said. “I want my classroom to be a place where students can focus and peppermint is said to help with this. Lemon is another oil that I use because I find it to be energizing and uplifting. Sometimes I mix the two together.”

Some students who use a diffuser at home also enjoy having essential oils in their classrooms.

“My mom and I use essential oils for our health and well-being,” Ansari said. “We also diffuse oils to purify the air in our house.”

Nadjarian also likes to use essential oils at home and has scents that she prefers to use the most. She enjoys these scents in her classrooms as well.

“I have two diffusers at home that I use with many essential oils,” Nadjarian said. “I use eucalyptus and lavender the most.”

Essential oils may enhance learning in students. Freshman Katie Gould shares her thoughts on teachers using a diffuser.

“I think essential oils are helpful and make it easier to learn,” Gould said. “But if the scent is too strong, I find it difficult to focus or concentrate.”

Some teachers only have artificial light in their classrooms, so their rooms don’t have a natural feel compared to other classrooms that have sunlight shining in. Using essential oils can help bring “fresh air” and a more natural feel to a classroom.

“I don’t have any windows,” Mrs. Smith said. “So I’ll use them whenever my classroom gets a little stuffy.”

Ms. East has been using essential oils in her classroom every day, during all hours, for almost four years. Ever since she’s began using essential oils, she has noticed that they help bring a positive atmosphere into her classroom.

“The fresh scent, paired with the bright decorations of my classroom and the bird feeder outside makes for a pretty positive learning experience,” Ms. East said.

Some teachers won’t use their diffusers for the whole day. It will depend on the situation or time of the day.

“We start school so early,” Mrs. Foutz said. “So in the morning, the lemon and peppermint combination is a nice way to start the day.”

As a student, Gould prefers to start the day with essential oils.

“I like to have them in the morning,” Gould said. “It’s nice when I’m still tired and it wakes me up.”

Teachers who have used more neutral scents have never seen any adverse effects with their essential oils.

“I dilute the oils and have not had complaints of headaches,” Mrs. Foutz said. “Also, none of my students have recorded allergies to any of the oils that I use. If a student comments on the smell I do ask if it is bothering them because I realize that some students are sensitive to perfumes and odors.”

Not every teacher uses essential oils in their classrooms but Gould would like diffusers to become more widespread among her classes.

“I think it would be a really great idea for more teachers to use essential oils,” Gould said. “[Oils] help students learn in a new and refreshing way.”

From a teacher’s perspective, Mrs. Foutz understands that students may be sensitive to the smell of essential oils. She believes that as long as teachers are aware, often it is a great idea to use them more.

“I think that if teachers use oils in their classroom they should be sure to be mindful of students with sensitivities to odors and willing to stop if there are complaints,” Mrs. Foutz said. “I definitely support teachers creating an environment in which students feel comfortable and welcome, so if oils help to create a better classroom environment, I support that.”

Ansari also hopes to have more classrooms with essential oils, as she finds them beneficial to her learning.

“I really think that using oils in the classroom helps me and others in many ways,” Ansari said. “I think it will create a great atmosphere for students.”

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