You may have heard “21st century furniture” thrown around a couple times, especially if you’re in education.
But what exactly is it? (It sounds so ambiguous and abstract.) What makes furniture 21st century, not 20th century or 19th century?
(Bear with us here.)
Furniture plays an integral yet largely unnoticed role in our lives.
It facilitates relationships; we can sit on a couch across or side-by-side from a friend. The backing provides back and neck support. The cushions give us comfort. These unseen amenities make it possible to have a 3-hour conversation if we want to.
Meetings are made, decisions are come to at the help of furniture.
Imagine not having furniture, sitting on the ground stooped over? How many meetings would be adjourned, decisions postponed because of backaches, inability to concentrate…?
And this is just the bare minimum.
You see, a couch, office chair, the classroom stool—they were the 19th and 20th century furniture (if such a term existed back then).
They did their jobs: They provided physical support; they made all those meetings manageable; a child in class had a place to put his/her pencils and a sturdy surface to rest his/her notebook on and take notes.
But times have changed, and now good then isn’t good anymore.
We now know children benefit from a collaborative learning environment. Classroom learning has shifted from teacher-centered to student-centered; “the ‘front of the classroom’ is anywhere.”
21st Century furniture is furniture that accommodates and adapts to this. It is mobile, flexible, safe, and functional, promoting innovation, creativity, community, and planned and spontaneous collaboration among students, under the helpful guide of the teacher.
To delve more specifically into this, here are 3 dynamic ways 21st century classroom furniture facilitates student-centered learning.
1. It allows for easy transitions
This furniture makes it possible for teachers to schedule back-to-back lesson plans that once involved lengthy and difficult transitions.
Because of the castors on desks and chairs, children can wheel them to the side to make room for a large group activity that requires extra space.
Individual work next—wheel them back.
Collaborative discussion groups—no problem. Children can “turn to their neighbor” by swiveling their chairs.
2. It’s ergonomically designed
The ergonomic design of this furniture is one way to individualize the learning environment.
Furniture in the 21st century classroom is “designed to be ergonomically appropriate for users of varying sizes and proportions and favoring different learning styles.”
Now taller children can adjust the chairs to free up more space.
And students who may learn better kinesthetically, or who have a learning disability such as dyslexia, or those that are sensation avoidant can individually change their seats to best fit their needs.
3. It helps students interact with their learning environment
Science educators, Sharon A. Lynch, Ed. D. and Cynthia G. Simpson, Ph. D. say it best:
“In order to meet the child’s need for increased or decreased stimulation, the classroom must offer a variety of sensory experiences to address the child’s individual sensory requirements. When in a high quality, developmentally appropriate [school] environment, the teacher can provide opportunities for movement, exploration, and stimulation, as well as quiet places ensuring that all children can feel safe and comfortable. In this way the sensory needs of all young children can be met within the typical classroom setting.”
Children are still learning about the outside world; we need to honor that.
Furniture in the 21st century classroom ensures this by incorporating colors and designs that spark positive emotions.
The movability of the furniture also achieves this, as a changing learning environment erases situational boredom and stimulates kids.
We further see this with exercise balls as seats, stand-up desks, and pneumatic tables. Instead of fighting a child’s restlessness, we need to provide furniture that works with it.
So, what’s your take on modern classroom furniture?
Has it had an impact on you (or your students)? If so, how?
Leave a comment below.