Flexible classrooms are spaces that promote learning in line with the needs of learners and the teaching requirements for each subject area or teaching method.
They include diverse workstations: chairs and desks, Pilates balls, stools, cushions, rocking chairs, carpets, etc, to:
– meet the needs of learners who are not comfortable sitting on a typical chair all day long;
– help kinesthetic learners concentrate by allowing subtle movement (Pilates balls – cushions); and
– respond to the children’s sensory needs for touch making them feel safe and warm on the classroom sofa or carpet.
Flexible and diverse furnishing allows for face-to-face, u-shaped or in-groups seating arrangements and children may alternate workstations depending on the needs and objectives of each lesson.
How do flexible and diverse classrooms benefit our children?
- They empower learners because they allow greater control of their environment and more options.
2. They promote physical health: being able to change postures, the children’s bodies get the chance to rest and learn to adapt in different positions, strengthening, thus, their muscles and increasing their metabolism.
3. The more the body moves the more oxygen flows in the brain; children are awake and active!
4. Diverse workstations allow students to find in which positions they feel more comfortable.
5. They support collaborative learning because children may sit in groups more easily: bulky desks are removed to facilitate eye contact and communication.
6. Communication skills are cultivated through problem-solving and conflict management: patience may be nurtured even by “waiting for my turn to sit on the sofa”!
7. They strengthen the sense of community: “I may not have my own desk but I get to share an entire classroom with my peers and look after it”. They facilitate the learners’ transition from “I” to “we”.
8. Many of the available arrangement options meet the students’ sensory needs for touch (carpet, sofa) and movement (Pilates balls, cushions); kinesthetic learners or children with learning difficulties may really benefit from such possibilities.
9. Children relax and feel pleasantly when they are allowed to sit freely – even on the floor – and still feel accepted. The result is that they actually learn better!
What is the link between body posture, the classroom and learning according to the latest research?
The latest neurological research places significant emphasis on the link between the brain and the body. When the body is active, the brain is active too.
Research highlights the importance of:
– decreasing the time children spend sitting on the same position, and
– increasing bodily movement to maintain children’s physical well-being and alertness.
Given that even subtle bodily movements increase oxygen consumption by the brain, children become more receptive to learning.
A study conducted by the University of Salford, UK highlights the significance of the classroom in relation to the learners’ progress. A marked increase in learners’ progress of even up to 25% was observed within a school year solely due to changing the classroom environment.
Where have flexible classrooms been applied?
Flexible classroom have been widely tested in Scandinavian countries and especially in the Finnish education system which has been ranked as one of the top, up-to-date education systems. In the USA and the United Kingdom the new schools are built according to the flexible classrooms specifications and many international schools, all over the world, have adopted the IB education system and applied flexible classrooms to serve the IB’s educational objectives.
What can I do, as a parent, should my child feel uncomfortable in some spots in her/his classroom?
After children familiarize with all these new locations and positions, as a parent I may advise them, as they would have already been encouraged to do so by their teacher, to tell their teacher which places they find more convenient so that they can select them more often.
If my child hesitates to tell the teacher, I can contact the teacher myself to confirm which seating my child prefers.
How can I express my concerns for flexible classrooms?
I can talk to the ΡΥΡ Coordinator or the Primary School Principal and ask questions or express concerns about this new learning environment. Not all classes have the same needs the same way as not all learners. We are here to listen to you and adjust our classrooms to the needs of our children!
What Covid-19 safety measures are followed in the new classrooms?
In the new classrooms, special measures have been taken to protect our children from the corona virus. Plexiglas has been added to single tables so that learners are safe to sit facing each other if they choose to.
In the sofa and cushions space, learners sit mostly facing front. When in group, the required distances are kept.
The cleaning staff cleans and disinfects classrooms in every recess so that students may switch places after every two-hour period.
Every time a student changes location during the lesson, the teacher disinfects the space using a special disinfectant.
How often do children switch places?
After every recess, the classroom is disinfected and students may sit in another part of the classroom. Thus, taking under consideration both the guidelines and the orthopedist’s advice, the maximum planned time of stay in one place is two teaching hours unless a student requests to switch earlier during the two-hour period. In that case, the space is disinfected by the teacher.