Best Seat in the Class

By Kelli Gile

Classrooms transform with flexible seating options

DIAMOND BARSeveral Walnut Valley educators are discovering that flexible seating classrooms are providing learning environments that kids need.

Flexible classrooms give students a choice in what kind of learning space works best for them, and helps them work collaboratively, communicate, and engage in critical thinking.

At Quail Summit Elementary, first grade teacher Jessica Cabral replaced rows and rows of traditional desks with a variety of innovative seating options this year.

Learning areas are now filled with stability disks, stadium chairs, yoga balls, camp chairs, hooki stools, stack stools, lap desks, standing tables, and even a few “old school” desks.

When her 26 students enter the classroom, they decide which type of chair or desk to occupy for the day.

“They enjoy having the ability to choose where they sit,” Cabral said.

The new education space was intentionally designed to foster the five C’s (critical thinking, collaboration, communication, creativity, and citizenship), the educator said.

“They need to be given the opportunity to collaborate and solve problems with different students in the classroom. They couldn’t do that sitting in the same old spot every day,” Cabral said.

“I feel that flexible seating absolutely impacts student learning. Statistics have shown that movement increases memory,” she added.

Her goal is to provide students the opportunity to move while learning, in order to increase their attention, focus, engagement, and overall, their learning experience.

“The Hokki stools are an absolute hit. We can’t get enough of them!” she shared.

Logan Shih, age 7, didn’t hesitate when asked about choosing his favorite mobile seat in class.

“Oh, that’s simple,” he proudly announced.

“The yoga ball – because I like to bounce around!”

“All the kids like the yoga ball!”

A few feet away, classmate Clovis Hung was settled on a red stadium chair while writing at a low table.

“I like it because I can adjust it,” he said.

How did she do it?

Most recently, Cabral was able to purchase eight swivel Hokki stools, at $96 each, with funds raised through the online classroom project site, Donor’s Choose.

After experimenting with choice seating options for years, Kathy McLean “dove in all the way” three years ago.

The second-grade teacher began with Goodwill tables repurposed with a fresh coat of paint and whiteboard tops.

Next, McLean brought in few Wobble and Hokki stools, and two double standing tables.

McLean received a grant for the standing tables, that run about $200 each.

“Some of my students prefer to stretch out on the floor with lap desks,” she reported.

The savvy educator discovered that doing away with assigned seating has empowered her students to make positive decisions for their own learning.

“By being able to change seats each day, students also have the opportunity to collaborate with different classmates while working on self-discipline. After all, to sit by your best buddy, you have to abide by classroom expectations!” she said.

McLean said trusting her students to make the best choice for themselves has been an important factor in the success of innovative classroom.

“Flexible seating has been a game changer for me!”

Cabral advices teacgers contemplating the classroom seating switch to “start small.”
“Change a few chairs and tables. Expect chaos, it’s not as easy to manage at first, but you will see the benefits as the year progresses!”