Aromatherapy can be a powerful tool when it comes to mood and behavior. Different aromas have been known to boost productivity, improve mental function and enhance focus.
While it may not be the first thing most teachers reach for, scent can be a natural way to subtly control the atmosphere in a classroom. Whether it’s by diffusing an essential oil, introducing a fragrance spray or growing some natural plants on the window sill, certain smells can have a beneficial impact.
Here we’ll cover some scents that are scientifically proven to encourage productive or calming behavior. Teachers—feel free to try these out with your class!
Lavender is widely known for its calming qualities, which is something often sought in the classroom. The herb has been used in the treatment of anxiety-related disorders and has been shown to calm the nervous system. It has also been shown to elevate the mood and improve the emotional state of workers.
It’s probably not the best scent to use for heads-down working time, however, because these same studies found that lavender slowed reaction times and decreased memory performance. Instead, the scent of lavender is best used when rowdy children need to calm, such as immediately after recess or right before their parents pick them up.
Studies show that the scent of lemon is said to increase the heart rate and enhance mental and physical task performance. This makes it the perfect fragrance to waft through the classroom when students are in need of some energy and focus. If it’s time to begin a creative project or take a test, a hint of lemon scent can do wonders in helping your class with active concentration.
When tested on mice in a laboratory study, the scent of jasmine proved itself a powerful calming agent. Mice exposed to the scent were quieted dramatically, many of them sitting quietly in a corner. If that sounds like something your classroom might need at times, diffusing the scent of jasmine might be just the fix.
Given its sedative qualities, jasmine might be the perfect scent to place in the principal or nurse’s office where children might be agitated or anxious. Teachers might also find success introducing this scent if the classroom is especially rambunctious.
Research has shown the scent of rosemary can improve memory and cognition. The perennial herb’s scent impacted participants’ speed and accuracy when performing tasks that involved visual processing.
If your classroom is going to be performing tasks where they will need to memorize images or numbers, the scent of rosemary could help. Simply diffuse the scent as an essential oil or even grow some fresh rosemary on the window sill!
The smell of cinnamon might conjure images of a bakery or lazy home kitchen, but it’s actually been found to have stimulating properties. Other studies have found that cinnamon stimulates the brain and heightens attention.
Participants in the study experienced heightened attention and speedier motor reactions as well. This makes cinnamon the perfect scent for study time or even a classroom learning discussion.
This lively scent is easily recognizable and has been used throughout time to brighten one’s mood and soothe the senses. Studies have shown that orange has an effect on anxiety. One study showed reduced levels of anxiety and stress in women, especially during labor. Another study from the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that the scent of sweet orange decreased tension and increased tranquility in male participants.
These findings suggest that orange could be used to ease worries and anxieties as well as pacify a distressed student. School counselors may find this scent especially useful.
Peppermint has been shown in multiple studies to improve the memory as well as increase alertness. One study even found that peppermint helped stimulate subjects who were performing tasks that involved prolonged periods of attention. In another study, participants showed significantly higher memory indicators when they smelled peppermint.
Many teachers know how it feels to have a student who just can’t seem to concentrate. It could be worth it to try introducing the scent of peppermint into the atmosphere.
The scent of citrus (think grapefruit, tangerine or bergamot) is invigorating, but did you know it has been shown to fight fatigue and depression? Studies have found that citrus has an effect on physiology, mood and behavior. Decreased anxiety and improved mood were found in several different situations, suggesting that citrus can be a powerful aromatherapy agent.
Citrus could be the perfect scent to waft through the classroom during an afternoon slump or during a dreary winter day. Any time the class could use a pick-me-up would be a great time to use citrus.
How to Add Scent to Your Classroom
To decide which scent disbursement option is best for your classroom, you should take several things into account. For example, you’ll want to consider the size of your classroom, how many students you have and the particular rules at your school.
Dispersing the Scent
Many people like to use essential oil diffusers to disperse scents. To do this, just buy a diffuser and pour a few drops of essential oil into them. This is best for long-term scents as diffusers can last several hours or even days.
A scented candle is a less invasive way to introduce a scent to your classroom, however, you may need to check if your school allows open flame. If not, a room spray can work nicely. Either purchase a pre-made one with your desired scent or you can mix a few drops of essential oil into a spray bottle filled with distilled water.
Another fun way to introduce some of the naturally-occurring scents from herbs and flowers is to grow them in your classroom! Rosemary can be grown on the window sill and lavender or jasmine can be grown in hanging pots or planters. Get creative when introducing these scents to your students—they can be educational and fun!
Considerations for Sensitive Noses
One thing to remember is that some people are very sensitive to certain smells. If you’re hoping to use a stronger scent (such as an essential oil) it might be best to send home a note with your class before doing so. Have their parents confirm that their children are not sensitive or allergic to certain scents first.
If scents are introduced into the classroom in a smart and sensible way, there is no reason why they can’t help increase productivity and promote relaxation when needed. If you’re looking for an extra subtle way of introducing a scent, you can also try to purchase a fragrance with prominent notes in your chosen scent. Have fun exploring the inpact different smells have on behavior and enjoy a natural solution to many classroom issues.
Teachers—are you looking for a way to teach students about what they are smelling? Download our fun coloring printables below! You can print them out and use them as an activity for younger students while teaching them about the benefits of aromatherapy.