Education is in a constant state of change - including the curriculum, discipline, technology, resources and assessments. One thing that has remained constant in many schools is classroom seating arrangements.
Dr. Reynolds (Science of Fitness, 2015) says that "Globally speaking, kids sit on average for 8.5 hours. Movement and activity really drops after age 8. That's of course, when school, homework and tech devices take over kids' lives." We know, and research confirms, that physical activity - moving, stretching, and walking - can enhance the learning process. One way to ensure that we are optimizing learning time for our students is to incorporate flexible seating in the classroom. Flexible seating is sitting on the floor or carpet, on oversized bean bag chairs, on a couch, on stools, at a diner table or dinette, on bouncy balls, on raised chairs, or even standing.
We asked them to share their journey with flexible seating
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A Conversation with Emily Beaver at Northridge Academy
What lead to the decision to create the flexible seating in your classroom?
We wanted to ensure that individual students needs were being met, creativity was occurring, and our classroom felt like family. Ms. Brown-Coates, our school leader, always says "we need to invest in our craft." As soon as school ended in June, 2016, I started talking to Ms. Lisa Casteel and reading blogs about the flexible seating approach. These peaked my interest because teachers, administration teams, and principals saw an immediate impact it had on their students so we began our journey of locating different seating options.
How did you locate the tables (especially the diner tables)?
Ms. Evelyn Hamlett, curriculum coach at Northridge Academy, said she always wanted a classroom to look like a cafe; a place that's inviting and that kids want to come--so the idea of restaurant tables and booths came to me one day as I was sitting at a Mexican restaurant enjoying some delicious tacos in Flint. I immediately started looking on Craigslist and located round and square tables for a very reasonable price in Traverse City. I hit the jackpot again when my parents located restaurant booths on Craigslist. We started talking to our family members asking for ideas and donations to make it more cozy. We each received couches, end tables, lamps, and bookshelves over the summer.
What impact has the new seating had on student learning?
From the very first day school started, our approach has been very intentional, to engage students, make them comfortable, and to have meaningful invigorating conversations with one another. We have noticed a tremendous impact on our students success. Students are excited to make their own choice and to have control over their own learning. If we want more student motivation and engagement, then we as teachers, must adapt to our students in our classrooms. I believe Ms. Casteel and I have done just that.
Is there any other information you would like to share about flexible seating for the benefit of our colleagues?
We receive a lot of questions regarding students classroom supplies. This was also a large task that Ms. Casteel and I wanted to be very easy, meaningful, and not chaotic. We decided on community supplies, this is very easy and organization is key. All students bring pencils and one binder to our classes. Each "area" has their own supplies and responsibility is emphasized in our classrooms. This has also cut back on missing assignments that are always hidden in desks, clean-out desk Friday's, and an increased sense of pride and community to take care of our classroom.
We encourage everyone to take a leap and try new things, especially to obtain motivation, achievement, and community in your classroom.