Aromas in the classroom? It just makes ‘scents’!

Aromas in the classroom? It just makes ‘scents’!

Kingswood Prep School is renowned for its exceptional levels of pastoral care. Now, by incorporating the use of aromas and natural oils, the School is adapting the learning experience into a truly invigorating experience for all of the senses.

The reason behind this? Research has shown that pleasant smells can not only improve cognitive functioning, but can also have an energising or relaxing effect in the classroom, depending on the aromas used. This benefits both teachers and children alike and studies have shown that incorporating aromas can increase recall (1, 2).

During her time leading cutting edge research in educational neuroscience, Dr Torrance Jenkins, Head of Science at Kingswood Prep School, was inspired to bring the academic learnings from hundreds of papers to life via simple, action-focussed guides for teachers.

Dr Torrance Jenkins has already guided our staff, pupils and some of their parents through insights in brain plasticity, calm working environments and more and has now turned her focus on the use of essential oils to encourage learning. Studies show that using the same aromas both during the ‘encoding’ of learning and then later during testing of concepts learned can enhance learning and memory. Pleasant scents may also decrease anxiety, assisting learners to relax as they learn (during their ‘encoding’) which improves cognitive performance (3).

Kingswood Prep School staff are always keen to build on their teaching experiences and all leapt at the chance to introduce scents to their classrooms. In partnership with classes, teachers have chosen specific scents to use during the day. Year 6 have decided to learn Maths with peppermint and English with rosemary and lemon. Our Year 6 reported that having the same scent present when they were learning subjects helped them ‘get into the zone’ and they believed it had helped their recall. Although there are currently 30 different natural oil scents on offer to our classes, the most popular are:

  • Rosemary: known to assist in memory formation, as it contains 1,8 cineole, a building block of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which is used during memory formation.
  • Peppermint and lemon: used for its energising properties.
  • Vanilla, chamomile and pine: can be used to create a relaxing atmosphere.
  • Floral: one study has showed that a combination of floral aromas was associated with an increase in the speed of learning (3).

Kingswood Prep School is already seeing results: 85% of teachers believed that the diffuser in their classroom is having a positive impact. “The aromas make the room ‘feel’ nice, and they add another dimension to the lesson; they’re great to make one subject stand out from the rest” comments Mr Hopwood, Key Stage 2 Teacher. “When the children understand why we’re using scents, it brings the Science of Learning to the fronts of all our minds – and I think it’s really important to make this magical processes of learning overt. The children know that learning is not a passive activity but very much an active one that requires input.”

The positive reports are not just from teachers. One Year 5 pupil was full of praise: “Walking into a room that smells nice is so relaxing. It makes me want to get into the room, sit down and absorb the lesson!”

In combination with Kingswood Prep School’s exceptional pastoral care, excellent academic results and a community that believes in being kind, this latest development in teaching is sure to continue to bring positive benefits.


1. Olofsson, J.K., Ekström, I., Lindström, J., Syrjänen, E., Stigsdotter-Neely, A., Nyberg, L., Jonsson, S. and Larsson, M., 2020. Smell-based memory training: Evidence of olfactory learning and transfer to the visual domain. Chemical Senses, 45(7), pp.593-600.

2. Lwin, M.O., Morrin, M. and Krishna, A., 2010. Exploring the superadditive effects of scent and pictures on verbal recall: An extension of dual coding theory. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 20(3), pp.317-326.

3. Moss M, Cook J, Wesnes K, Duckett P. Aromas of rosemary and lavender essential oils differentially affect cognition and mood in healthy adults. Int. J. Neurosci. 2003.

4. Lippner, A. (1999). Aromas and memory.


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Aromas in the classroom? It just makes ‘scents’!