Little hands and feet can make a big mess, adding to the challenge of keeping your classroom clean. Although it's difficult, you can stay on top of the situation through intentional design of your classroom environment and daily upkeep. Enlist the help of students. Develop and use an organizational system to promote cleanliness. Remove nonessential objects that collect dust to reduce clutter and create a healthier environment, which is especially critical for respiratory sufferers. A study released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in 2012 estimated that 10 million pupils in U.S. schools have asthma.
It’s easy to accumulate stacks of papers, disorganized supplies, outdated textbooks, stuffed animals and abandoned student art projects. Some items you may have inherited from previous teachers who left them behind. Inventory everything in your classroom and eliminate what you don't need. The National Education Association also suggests removing upholstered furniture, bean bag chairs and rugs to reduce dirt, possible pet dander, dust mites and pathogens that can make children sick. An uncluttered space is easier to clean and disinfect. Further, uncluttered classrooms promote learning by eliminating distractions.
Wiping down plastic bins is faster than dusting or washing individual items. Use plastic bins to store items when they're not in use. Group similar materials together. For instance, place arts and crafts supplies in one bin and puppets in a different bin. Use transparent containers to quickly find teaching aids when needed. Develop a cleaning schedule to get into the habit of picking up paper each day, dusting weekly and replacing classroom decorations monthly. Sort through your bins at the end of the school year, and purge broken or unwanted items.
Explain to children why a clean classroom facilitates learning and staying healthy. Expect children to do their part to put things back in the right place and clean up after themselves. Teach children how to properly wash their hands and desks after a messy activity, such as finger painting. Provide a garbage can for snack wrappers and debris. Obtain school-approved cleaning supplies from the custodian and regularly wipe down horizontal surfaces and door handles, particularly during flu season. Remind children to cover their mouths when coughing or sneezing, wash hands and immediately dispose of tissues.
The American Lung Association indicates that classrooms should be promptly cleaned after children eat food or consume drinks. Crumbs and spills attract cockroaches, rodents and other pests. Wipe down surfaces with a wet cloth and contact the custodian as needed. Any leftover food must be stored in containers or discarded. Some teachers discourage eating in the classroom, preferring to limit that to the cafeteria or outdoor spaces. The ALA also recommends finding a new home for the classroom bird or hamster for cleanliness and to protect children with allergies from pet dander.
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Summary Health Statistics for U.S. Children -- National Health Interview Survey, 2012
- National Education Association: Five Ways to a Cleaner, Healthier Classroom
- American Lung Association: Healthy Air Walkthrough Classroom Checklist
- Connecticut School Indoor Environment Resource Team: Tips for Teachers to Keep Your Classroom Clean & Healthy
- N.H. Partners for Healthy Schools: Tips for Keeping Your Classroom Clean and Healthy