Learning Environment

Make This a DIY Summer, Part One: Creative Seating Options for the Classroom

Adding more options for flexible seating adds more flair and function to tired learning spaces.

Who doesn’t love a great DIY show or transformation? While DIY is often focused on home spaces, learning spaces can also be refreshed with some creative repurposing of everyday objects and/or the upcycling of inexpensive or discarded finds. Our Make This a DIY Summer series will focus on different ways to enliven learning spaces at a minimal cost. Each post will share some DIY ideas for bringing new life to the learning environment or the resources used within it. As teachers settle down to plan their first DIY project of summer, it seems apropos that the focus should be on functional and flexible seating.

Tire Seats

Well, education is often likened to a journey, so upcycling some tools of the travel trade is a logical choice. Whether some spare tires are in the garage or affordably procured from another source, a good scrubbing makes them a perfect template for some sturdy stackable seating. There are lots of tutorials out there to get this project rolling. Placing covers on both sides of the opening makes this seating option even more functional by allowing for storage. Two of the most popular transformations include covering the tire in rope or simply adding some paint and a cushion.


A quick flip of the crate and the addition of a cushion can transform these file holders into single seats or benches. Turning the crate upside-down makes for a sturdy seating surface that just requires a cozy cushion, but a traditional milk crate which is typically made of heavier material can be turned on the side to create a storage spot for a bin of supplies. If a plywood base is made for the cushion, it can rest on the interior rim allowing for another additional storage option. A sisal rope transformation can also be done to transform the outward appearance of the entire crate. Single crates make for great flexible options, but bench seating can also be created for a temporary configuration or as a more permanent fixture using zip ties as connectors.

5-Gallon Buckets

If a DIY project for seating is on the summer bucket list, then a bucket can also be used as a go-to base. Be sure to get the sturdy 5-gallon style that can be found at most home improvement and/or paint stores. Much like the crate options, buckets can be left upright with a cushioned cover allowing for storage or flipped upside-down with a simple cushion secured on top with Velcro. If the interior isn’t being used for storage and the cushions are easily removable, then the bucket seating can be easily stacked and stored when not in use. This makes these rotund vessels a perfect solution for those with limited space. If stacking isn’t necessary, sisal rope or another colorful roping choice could also be used to transform the whole look.


It’s pretty much a guarantee that every classroom will have chairs. Spare and mismatched chairs can often be discovered when searching basements, resale shops, garage sales, etc. With paints, fabrics, or even magazines, these typically boring seating options can be revitalized. Whether the goal is to create a single author’s chair or transform an entire section in the learning space, decoupage and some clever cutouts can do wonders. Words for language arts, maps for history, animal pictures for science, etc. are all great decoupage options for making a seat or seating area special. Paint can also do wonders to liven up the look of some seating with either a single color or a more intricate pattern or concept depending on the craftiness and the timeline of the brush holder.

If a creative project isn’t in the cards this summer, there are still some affordable options for incorporating comfort and personality. Cushions, throw pillows, beanbags, or any other soft option can be used to create an informal seating area. Being able to plop on the floor and read a book, review with a partner, or watch a video clip lets students look forward to learning in a comfortable setting and makes the space a place where they want to be.

Revamping and restructuring the classroom with no budgetary considerations would be a dream come true for teachers. Once the alarm goes off and an educator’s eyes open to reality, limited purse strings and plan B often come into play. With these affordable seating transformations, students will be ready to settle into learning in style. Be sure to check back for ways to add interest and functionality to reading nooks in Part 2 of Make This a DIY Summer.

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