From the California Business Journal Newswire
Just as a one-size-fits-all approach to learning doesn’t suit today’s classrooms, schools will increasingly need to become flexible spaces, accommodating multiple learning styles to enable students to perform their best. That’s the message of leading school furniture provider Hertz Furniture in announcing K-12 classroom furniture trends for 2018-2019 and beyond.
“From adaptable and movable seating, to bold colored desks and collaborative furniture that integrates technology, it’s about creating multi-use spaces that not only boost creativity and cater to unique learning needs, but also prepare students for real-life environments like college and the business world,” said David Mocton, President of Ramsey, NJ-based Hertz Furniture, which provides design concepts and products for schools across the U.S.
“The next generation is no longer being trained to work in factories, so why do the majority of American schools still mirror the 19th century factory model classroom set-up that’s characterized by rows of desks and chairs?” Mocton asked. “It’s time for schools to recognize the profound impact the physical learning environment has on a child’s education,” he said, citing a recent study by researchers at Iowa State University that demonstrates how classroom design directly impacts student engagement, such as mobile chairs facilitating communication and collaboration.
According to Gabriel Schwartz, Hertz Furniture Vice President of Sales for California, the top five school furniture trends that will increasingly be incorporated together into the classroom include:
Cocoon zones: Recognizing that some students learn better when given their own space where they can feel comfortable and free of distraction, schools are creating more relaxed and homey environments using study pods. These self-contained booths are padded in soft vinyl and include a comfy desk and chair along with arm and leg rests. The idea is to give students a unique area to enjoy downtime, de-stress or focus, away from the interference of others.
Active/flexible seating: After decades of being told to sit still, today’s students are encouraged to move, thanks to new research showing movement stimulates the brain and helps improve learning. Wobble chairs and rocker stools have a slightly rounded bottom so fidgety students can gently sway back and forth, even when sitting in one place. Bounce chairs that hold anti-burst exercise balls cater to high energy students. Flexible seating options, including adjustable heights, enable the chairs to move with the students as they go from one work area to another.
Bright colors: More and more schools are moving away from dull color schemes and wooden desks towards those with bright orange, red, lime green or blue tops. High schools, in particular, are leaning towards gray design elements with bold color highlights in an effort to emulate a more mature, college-like atmosphere. “Students get a sense that their classroom is a special space – the furniture looks different and the colors are unique,” Schwartz said. “They begin to feel that they’re no longer in a regular classroom and that creates a sense of excitement and anticipation.”
Collaborative spaces: With student collaboration increasing in popularity, schools are moving towards flexible classroom configurations that allow groups to sit around tables together, often in front of a large, wall-mounted TV screen. Contoured, wave-like desks are another modern choice to support group work because they easily join together in unlimited ways to suit any need. Because collaborative furniture is easily moved into different configurations, it allows students to separate when individual work is required and rejoin later for group work.
Integrated technology: The more technology shows up in the classroom, the more furniture is being designed to support it. Trending high tech furniture for schools includes computer desks and study pods that come with data ports and built-in electrical outlets. According to Schwartz, the next wave of school desks will include embedded tablets and screens.
Among the first to benefit from the mix of these trending furniture options are students at San Bernardino, CA-based Entrepreneur High School – a state-of-the-art charter school by REAL Journey Academies that just opened its doors in a newly-renovated former K-Mart store.
Designed and installed by Hertz Furniture, the cutting-edge campus furniture includes individual study zones, collaborative spaces, flexible seating, high tech furniture and brightly colored furnishings. Other highlights are a presentation auditorium modelled after the popular TV show Shark Tank, and a versatile cafeteria outfitted with restaurant-style booths, café tables and rectangular eating tables – to meet individual dining preferences.
“The entire curriculum is based on entrepreneurship and teaching students how to design and run a business, so we wanted to create an environment that stimulates the brain and promotes collaboration,” said REAL Journey Academies Founder Alex Lucero, noting that nothing about the school is traditional, with every space designed to be multi-use and multi-functional. “We fully expect to see some brilliant business ideas coming from the students as a result.”
“It’s a no-brainer,” Schwartz emphasized. “If we can make school a fun, relaxing place to hang out in a way that caters to everyone’s varied needs, kids will want to spend time there and ultimately, they will be better prepared for the future.”