Incorporating flexible seating into your classroom design

Incorporating flexible seating into your classroom design

Incorporating flexible seating into your classroom design

Flexible seating is an important part of MLE classroom design. The overall concept is about offering students a choice with where and how they will work each day. Along with the benefits it gives to a student's health and wellness, flexible seating empowers students to make decisions, allows them to exert extra energy, keeps them engaged, inspired and excited to come to their classroom.

The new generation of students are part of a dynamic, fast-paced, and ever-changing world full of choices. If we want our students to be able to solve problems and make decisions independently in the world, we need to teach them how to do this within the modern classroom.  The student-choice benefit behind flexible seating is that it helps students become more self-aware of what types of seating and environment they learn best in. And, of course, they are empowered by the opportunity to have choices. Research has shown that when you create this type of environment, students are more engaged, behaviour issues are minimal, learning is happening and academic scores improve. Giving over power to the students can be very powerful because when they have a choice and a voice it builds mutual trust and respect.

The classroom environment should be conducive to open collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. This simply cannot be done when kids are sitting in rows of desks all day. The layout of a classroom needs to be a comfortable, inspiring environment with areas dedicated to different types and styles of working. It should give off a friendly, welcoming ambience where students feel they belong. Even a simple change to seating equipment can help you make that a reality.

We know that students learn best when they are comfortable and therefore every room should have a variety of seating options available.  A flexible seating arrangement often consists of: a low table with cushions or floor disks to kneel at; a medium height table with wobble stools or traditional ergonomic chairs; high tables or desks where students can stand or sit on a high stool; and a lounge area where students can lie on a floor mat, sit in a beanbag or comfy soft seating. This style of classroom works particularly well with fidgety students who usually struggle to concentrate. Having the option to stand, lie down or sit on wobbly stools, allows them to burn excess energy, improving their concentration and focus. Read more about the benefits of active seating here.

There are also many short term health benefits for using different types of seating and adding movement throughout the day. The benefits include burning more calories, developing a faster metabolism, creating better oxygen flow to the brain and improved core strength and posture. Long-term positive effects are lowering the chances of high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes and obesity later in their life. Research by medical professions has strongly indicated that long stretches of uninterrupted sitting on a traditional chair are highly detrimental one’s health and spine, and this is just as relevant for a young student as it is for an adult. Offering flexible seating in the classroom creates more active and alert students as well as sets students up to create healthy, lifelong habits.

Understanding the benefits of flexible sitting is one thing, but actually implementing it is another. A considerable amount of time needs to be spent talking, thinking, and planning exactly what is wanted and how it will work with your style of teaching. Offering flexible seating takes, even more, planning and classroom management than a traditional classroom but once in place and expectations are established though, the results can be positively transformational.

To get you started we have put together some easy ways to introduce flexible seating in your classroom.

Wobble Stools; Mogoo, Jari, Yoyo

Wobble Stools are perfect for those students that just can’t sit still. Stools like our Mogoo, Jari or Yoyo allow students to burn excess energy by encouraging gentle rocking and provide light exercise for the legs, back, and core. They can be used in group settings or arrangements of joined desks. They can also be used effectively for individual tasks requiring focus, like reading.

  • Health Benefits; Increased blood flow, posture, core strength.
  • Increased focus through movement.

Standing Desks; Lab Benches

Standing desks, bar leaners and lab benches have been increasingly popular within the workplace and now their presence is also growing within schools and classrooms. A number of reasons make standing desks a popular addition in a flexible classroom;

  • Health Benefits - numerous studies have shown the benefits of standing rather than sitting. Allowing students to have this option will be great for their health, but also their concentration and focus during classes. The idea of being able to switch between seating and standing will encourage students to move when they are feeling uncomfortable, allowing them to find a more suited position.
  • Increased blood flow - switching between standing and sitting can activate muscles and blood flow within the body helping students to engage in their subjects.
  • Better Posture; Standing can aid better posture compared to conventional seating.

Stools; Titan Stool

While stools may seem a simple alternative to most other flexible seating options, they are great paired with the above lab bench. Similarly, allowing students to easily switch between seating or standing.

  • Stools are suitable for both individual quiet study as well as more collaborative, discussion-based group work.
  • Can support a healthier posture compared to conventional seating arrangements.
  • Titan stools are a great option paired with a high table or science lab bench.

Cushions and working on the floor; Halo Cushion

Children are often more comfortable and productive when sitting or kneeling on a simple cushion on the floor. Cushions are a great option for students who struggle to sit for prolonged periods of time as it gives them a relaxed seating option. It also demonstrates that you don’t need big expensive items of furniture to transition into a flexible learning environment.

Low Tables

Low tables are another great addition to pair with a cushion or floor disk. It gives young children the choice of deciding where they work best and feel most comfortable. Many of our tables can have a custom made leg or adjustable leg height that allows you to combine this style of working in your classroom.

Jellybean Table

  • The Jellybean table is a great option to incorporate into your FLE, it offers a space for students to gather around and work closely with one teacher in the middle of the table. With the option of a whiteboard top and adjustable leg, it makes the perfect fit for a flexible classroom.

Circle Table

  • The circle table is the perfect table for students to gather for group work. With a range of adjustable and fixed leg heights, this could be the perfect table to pair with cushions and pillows. Allowing students to kneel, sit cross-legged, or even sit on top of — for example, during reading, writing or drawing activities

Conventional Desks and Chairs

While the movement of flexible learning environments has been praised, it is important to remember that there will always be children who prefer to sit in a regular desk and chair. Hence, it is important you don’t totally rule out the conventional option. Our standard student desk and cadet chair can be great for certain activities or assessments.  

Flexible classroom design and the furniture isn’t about completely renovating your existing classrooms, rather its about understanding the needs of your students and finding options to suit them and your teaching style.

Start small, do your research and reach out to us if you need a hand.

Previous article The Rise of the Learning Centre
Next article Matching your chair height to your desk