An innovative new program at two Bethel elementary schools is attempting to find out if giving students and teachers more mobility and creativity in the classroom will improve their educational experience.
Earlier this year, Evergreen and Thompson Elementary schools were selected to participate in a pilot furniture program that completely changed the look and functionality in four classrooms.
The principals at each school picked two teachers who were open to using unusual furniture to help deliver curriculum in a non-traditional classroom of single desks and chairs.
Unlike standard elementary classrooms where furniture remains in place and teachers instruct from the front of the class, the new furniture allows both students and teachers to move and combine work areas. Other changes include desks that can be easily rearranged, softer seats, “sofa chairs” that give students a place for group work, and mobile teaching stations that allow teachers to quickly adjust to the changing learning space.
The concept of flexible learning spaces is to provide areas throughout the classroom for formal and informal learning. The flexible classroom is designed to accommodate a variety of modes of learning: individual testing, working with pairs, working in small groups or larger teams, lectures, watching demonstrations, working independently and presentation.
Karie McVey, who teaches fifth grade math at Evergreen, is one of the teachers using the new furniture.
She said the new classroom layout has given her more freedom and mobility while allowing her students to explore their own creativity.
“The whole idea of this is to create a collaborative environment for kids,”
she said. “Having those conversations, getting out of your seats and working with one another, that’s the main goal with the seating.”
The furniture was built by a company called MeTEOR, which claims its goal is to “modernize and humanize the learning experience so that their teachers and students are empowered to reach their full potential,” according to the company’s website.
McVey said her students have enjoyed the additional freedom the pilot program provides.
“They like the option of not having an assigned seat,” she said. “They love the seating styles. They’ve really benefited from the seats themselves.”
At the end of the year, teachers and administrators will evaluate the program before any decisions are made about expanding it to more classrooms.