- Teachers in Long Island's Baldwin Schools have been invited to apply for funds to redesign their classroom space as a way to encourage innovation and are reinvigorating their own personal teaching styles along the way, according to The Hechinger Report.
- Ann Marie Lynam, a middle school teacher who works with students ranging from those with special needs students to the academically advanced, finds that a multifunction, mobile classroom with a variety of comfortable seating options has forced her to become more innovative in her teaching style and encourages collaborative efforts that rely more on conversation and less on technology.
- Tricia Wilder, a kindergarten teacher at a nearby school, redesigned her space with flexible seating and a “theater nook” that encourages creative play and has also added more technology to the classroom to facilitate individualized instruction.
As schools seek ways to encourage individuality, creativity, innovation and collaboration, redesigning the classroom space seems like a logical place to start. The traditional desk-in-rows format does little to promote these ideas. Many schools are now looking at flexible seating options and new classroom designs that work better with new educational approaches and the growing use of technology.
These seating options don’t have to be expensive. While some furnishings, such as moveable tables and desks, may cost more money — that can often be covered by grants and fund-raising campaigns — flexible seating options for elementary grades can be as simple as using yoga or bath mats, milk crates with cushions, bean bag chairs or exercise balls. These flexible options tend to create a more comfortable environment for students to learn and help engage students more fully because they have more freedom of choice. However, there are concerns that school leaders and teachers need to consider before making this move, such as potential arguments over seating choices and how to make students more identifiable to substitute teachers.
Innovation for the sake of innovation accomplishes little. Classroom redesigns need input from teachers and even students to be most effective. Every teacher offers instruction a little differently and students have diverse needs. The beauty of a flexible classroom is that teachers have greater freedom to experiment with the environment that works best for them and for their students, becoming, in essence, their own classroom designer.