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Tunable Lighting in a Special Needs Preschool

A successful classroom design begins by understanding the needs of a school’s educators. What does a teacher need from a classroom’s functionality to both support their performance and promote student learning and development?

Much like the corporate workplace, teachers working in the classroom require the same level of personalization to be productive and engaged. The ability to tailor a classroom experience empowers educators to determine what is appropriate based on each moment and task at hand. Lighting, and a teacher’s ability to control light quality and temperature, have a considerable influence on the educational experience.

In recent years, classroom lighting has evolved to improve energy efficiency and provide users more control over the amount and location of lighting. But the newer, less common technology of tunable white lighting poses new opportunities and questions.

Tunable white light enables users to adjust lighting color temperature for an immediate influence on how cool, warm, or neutral the color of the light is within a space. And studies show that color temperature can significantly impact mood, behavior, and productivity.

Some schools have started using this knowledge of color temperature in a different way. Rather than mimicking the daily cycle, lighting color temperature can be adjusted based on tasks or the needs of specific students.

A tunable white lighting system was installed in over 30 classrooms at Shining Stars Preschool – an inclusive facility for 3-4-year-old children. The school’s tunable white lighting system allows both color tuning and dimming, controlled by two simple slider switches in each classroom, to produce widely varied lighting conditions.

During the first semester of occupancy, teachers logged lighting adjustments made over a 2-week period to provide information about how the lighting system was being used. Results showed that teachers adjusted the dimmer most frequently followed by adjusting both dimming and color temperature and adjusting only color temperature. Reasons for adjustment included teacher preference, needs of specific students, and time of day. Some teachers noted other reasons for adjustment including to create calm or to ease transitions.

The tunable lighting system at Shining Stars Preschool has been well-received by staff, who consistently adjust both dimming and color temperature, each teacher making different choices about how to best use the tunable lighting system in their classroom.

Tunable lighting gives educators more control over the learning environment, reinforces learning, and encourages desirable behaviors. These and other positive effects have made tunable lighting systems an appealing option for educators and designers to explore.

Learn more about tunable white lighting at Shining Stars Preschool.


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