Educational Spaces Starting To Look Like Office Spaces
September 7, 2022
Picture a classroom. More than likely, you are imagining a tile floor room with 30 individual student desks and chairs, perfectly aligned in rows facing the front. There is a projector and a teacher’s podium at the front.
You would not be wrong or far off from what everyone else is thinking. After all, for the last one hundred years, that is exactly what every single classroom across America looked like. There was an idea that students would learn best if they had a small classroom table and chair in front on them, facing the front of the room so they would constantly be looking at the teacher’s board for notes. A sense of “order and discipline” was what the kids really needed after all. And after 13 years of this, we send these same students off to college, where they are allowed to come and go as they please, are forced to collaborate and engage with complete strangers and then we wonder why they aren’t truly ready for the real world that we so blindly thought we were preparing them for.
Luckily, there has been a movement in the last five to seven years to change the way secondary schools look. In 2017, the Kansas Department of Education recognized a need for change. With low graduation rates and a drastically changing workforce, the Kansas ReDesign Project was launched. They cited that while traditional school works for many students, we are failing some of our students by following a ‘one-size fits all’ method. They believe academic skills are important, but so are non-academic skills, such as: critical thinking, teamwork, perseverance, and civic engagement.
Schools across the Kansas City metro as well as Missouri Department of Education have done away with a traditional lunch schedule. No more bells constantly ringing throughout third period and hoping that you and your best friend in the next class have lunch at the same time. Many have now moved to a more ‘open lunch’ concept. This doesn’t mean students are leaving campus for lunch, just simply giving them an ‘open’ hour. This is still considered academic time as students are using their hour to not only eat, but collaborate freely on group projects and meet with teachers.
So, what do these changes mean for the educational furniture world? Everything.
These new academic ideas cannot fully come to fruition without new collaboration spaces and innovative classroom furniture.
Collaborative Educational Furniture
Changing From School Cafeteria to Café
There is no place inside school walls where there is more communication and collaboration than a cafeteria and many times those conversations revolve around the school day: what happened in class and upcoming assignments and tests. So, take those conversations and turn them into something more. Give students an education environment that breeds collaboration and innovation with flexible seating. EDspaces is hosting a design competition geared towards creating Specialty Spaces, where they are asking designers to submit a rendering for a school cafeteria turned café.
The idea is the get rid of the traditional rectangular table that only allows for communication between the people nearest to you, or the five person round table the cuts you off from the rest of the population. These spaces are intended to be more inviting and relaxing. Flexible seating includes classroom couches, sofas, and soft, moveable furniture pieces that are fully equipped with a power source and chargers are essential.
Pods are flexible and functional for student collaboration. These miniature modular classroom furniture pieces give students the ability to work together with others in a more private setting, without losing all of the essential educational products they need to be success to bring their project to life.
This Herman Miller Prospect Creative Space is a piece of modern school furniture that features a work table equipped with a power source. A whiteboard lining the panels of the pods allows for easy access for students to jot down ideas and brainstorm. The material of the panels even allows for posting and pinning other materials and artifacts for display. The circular design gives a more intimate feel, while reducing outside noise and distractions.
From Commons to Collab
These open spaces are no longer just for socializing during passing period. Instead, these are classrooms for cross-curricular education. The days of learning about history or math in just those classes are over. Teachers are pushing for more cross-curricular lessons that incorporate all classes into a single project. Combining multiple classes requires a need for space that a single classroom cannot provide. Schools across the nation are remodeling these areas to accommodate and encourage cross-curricular education.
Eudora High School in Eudora, Kansas remodeled their entrance in 2021, where they removed hundreds of lockers to make room for a common area classroom with learning center furniture. The exceptionally wide space was lined with whiteboards to allow for teachers the educate outside of their rooms or students to brainstorm and collaborate. The design called for lightweight chairs and couches allowing for furniture to be rearranged as groups needed. The three-part Harmony Tables, a classroom table of wheels, allowed students to either push together to form a single large table, or pull apart into small tables for smaller group projects. The Hierarchy desk provided the same flexibility, allowing for individual desk space or 5-person seating. Large tables with power sources and bar height stools were included in the furniture design, along with collab seating and tables that doubled as couches for a more relaxing environment.
These educational furniture solutions are just the first step in changing the educational process for the better. These pieces encourage student engagement, collaboration, and innovation. The new age of education is taking the focus off of the teacher and making it more student-centered, giving students the keys to their educational success and the educational furniture is there to foster the process.
Moveable Educational Furniture
If the way education looks is truly going to change, we must look inside the class as well. Traditional educational furniture and desks need to be a thing of the past. There are times when students need to be seated in an orderly fashion, but when implementing Project Based Learning, you need flexibility. You need something beyond a traditional desk and chair that is just simply turned towards another student while scraping along the floor as it is drug across the linoleum. Replacing old stationary furniture with tables and chairs on wheels and alternative classroom furniture pieces encourages movement just by making the rearranging an easier task.
Herman Miller once again encourages movement through their Everywhere Tables. These pieces of educational furniture come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes to tailor classroom design and set up to each teacher’s specifications and needs. The modular and mobile tables can be set up or rearranged in just minutes, encouraging student interactions and collaboration.
Along with tables, comes the obvious chair on wheels. Sure, those allow for easier movement like the table, but can it be taken to the next level? Not all learning has to or should be done in a traditional educational seating. Explore the options.
Herman Miller’s Pinch Stool is the perfect example of mixing it up. This single piece can be sat on or saddled because the unique shape doesn’t give the student a specific direction for it to be used.
The Magis Spun Chair gives new meaning to moveable. Yes, you can physically pick up the chair to move it, but the true purpose behind this chair is to create movement while sitting in the chair. This piece of art turned school furniture, allows for students to rock back and forth, or spin around.
Writeable Surfaces and Windows
Sure, students love technology and why not? Most of us would rather type a document than hand write it, but the fact is something things just need to be laid out by hand. A whiteboard surface gives the functionality of a regular desk, but allows for easy collaboration and sketching out a problem to find a solution.
The fully welded, durable Academia Dry-erase tables and desks allow students to easily shift from brainstorming to sketching by using the surface area directly in front of them. This whiteboard table for classrooms can be used for a more traditional use as well. Afterall, with limited space inside classroom, it is all about making the every square foot of real estate count.
What if there are more students or group than writing space? Sometimes, it just is not feasible to have whiteboards attached to walls, due to design or lack of wall space, but there are furniture solutions.
This light weight and movable and mobile educational furniture allows for collaboration anywhere. Students and teachers alike can move the easel to accommodate their needs. The mobility also allows for the board to be moved out of the way when it is not in use. It comes with a tackable backside to pin materials for display and can also double as a separator between groups of students.
Whiteboards are not the only writeable surfaces for students. Glass is another solution to your spatial needs and is great for student sketching and brainstorming. It also provides the additional advantage of student movement. Getting students up and out of a seat helps with oxygen flow to the brain and blood flow.
While many of the changes in education are happening at the K-12 stage through the use of K12 furniture manufacturers, all of these educational furniture solutions can be used for college and university classroom furniture as well.