Learning Environment

Creating Top-Notch Learning Zones in Versatile Classrooms

Tips from teachers in real classroom settings for selecting furnishings and designing functional spaces to increase student engagement and learning outcomes.

When it comes to designing classroom spaces, teachers put a lot of time and effort into creating the perfect arrangement. When form and function meet to provide engaging and user-friendly learning zones, students and teachers reap the benefits. At Global Educator Institute (GEI), we’ve been testing and vetting the newest furnishings and configurations in real classrooms with real students and real teachers, adding our seal of endorsement to designs that work. If revamping learning spaces is on the agenda, GEI has some tried-and-true ideas and furnishings for the versatile classroom.

Design Tips that Work

Classroom designer and planner David A. Stubbs II knows a thing or two about creating spaces that work. His 8 design tips for reinventing the structure and functionality of classroom spaces are the first steps toward developing a versatile learning zone. When we declutter and tune into the variety of learning styles and approaches that a classroom full of unique individuals brings, we begin developing the mindset necessary for revamping the traditionally stoic design of rows facing front.

Selecting furnishings and devising spaces that are multi-functional, mobile, and manageable will bring renewed power and purpose to student learning. If the learning zone can be wirelessly friendly, it makes a huge impact on the mobility and functionality of the overall space. With the constant changes to technology, designing an area catered to a single device is a short-lived solution. When areas are created that can be easily accessed and converted to meet a variety of instructional needs, it’s a win-win for teachers and students.

Functional Furnishing Choices

Much to teacher and student delight, modern pedagogy has undergone changes involving a breakaway from the lecture style of teaching. The introduction of concepts like flipped classrooms and PBL necessitate a need for smaller learning zones that students can easily flow between to meet their learning and inquiry needs. These zones can have differing appearances with a variety of furnishings that make unique and engaging environments within a single classroom. Some of the top products earning GEI’s coveted seal of endorsement are the perfect furnishings to bring versatility and excitement to a zone in need of a fresh and new look.

  • Standing Desks– Offering students a chance to stand and learn is a great way to captivate those that need a break from all the sitting that can monopolize a school day. Standing desks like the Alphabetter Desk from Safco Products give students an easily movable and height adjustable option that’s a perfect addition to any classroom. The swinging pendulum footrest found on this model is a great way to let students engage in some non-disruptive mobility. Lyn G., a GEI reviewer and teacher, agrees, “Students who need to expend some energy can do so quietly with this desk without interrupting the learning of others.” Other standing desk designs like the LearnFit Adjustable Standing Desk have wheels for easy movement and reconfiguration and a convenient cup holder and device station. Adding a few of these healthy alternatives to a learning zone is sure to get a standing ovation from students.
  • In-Motion Seating– Sitting for any extended amount of time can be a tiring task; an entire school day- exhausting. When seating can engage core muscles and increase attention and focus, students reap both physical and mental benefits. Safco Products has a couple of GEI Endorsed ball chair models that break from traditional classroom seating. The Zenergy and Runtz Ball Chairs use the concept of an exercise ball with a stationary base. Release the fidgets without the fear of toppling over that could occur with a traditional chair. Ball chairs are core engaging and easily mobile. Other core-friendly models include GEI endorsed Kore Chairs from Kore Design, which allow students to weeble and wobble without falling down.
  • Work Surfaces– Having a variety of options where students can pull up a seat makes for a great way to create unique learning zones. A table for small groups, singular desks/surfaces for individual work or easily combined collaborative zones, lap desks, etc. give students options for finding the best locale for their learning needs. Kimball Office has the Dock Training Flip/Nest that can be easily moved, manipulated for vertical or horizontal working/viewing, and seamlessly stored. National Office Furniture’s Fold Tables offer another great mobile and durable work surface. One GEI reviewer and teacher states, “I would recommend the table to anyone who wants their students to have more autonomy and mobility in the classroom.” These mobile and easily storable work surfaces are the epitome of form meets function in versatile spaces.

As methods and strategies for learning evolve and change, so must the environments and spaces where they occur. GEI was founded with the purpose of helping teachers make the best decisions about the products they use in the classroom. When creating learnings zones that meet the needs of form and function to facilitate learning, selecting products with the GEI Seal of Endorsement is a great place to start.