Students develop independence in work and time management by having direct access to their materials. But that was in tension with the need for more room to work and move.
Even with a layout that balanced floor space and material access, mismatched, plastic furniture created a lack of harmony and peacefulness in the environment
Even natural elements, like plants and basketry, struggled to bring harmony among the random, inappropriate furniture in a too small space.
Our older students had desks to help manage material access, but you can see that they craved alternate ways to move and work.
Our planning team of school staff, architects, district staff and community members spent the better part of last year developing a plan to literally knock down walls and expand our Upper Elementary (grades 4 and 5) classrooms to half again their current size, bringing them much closer to the recommended size.
Unfortunately, budget reality stepped in, and the only thing demolished was that plan.
We went back to work focussing on our plans to create more beauty and order with well-selected furniture. But as we kept thinking of our children's needs for space and movement, we realized we could create more functional space by making that a priority in choosing seating and storage options.
The aesthetic now is one of natural material, punctuated with the bright colors natural to children's work and materials, such as plants and globes.
By not thinking of table seating as the default (and floor and stand-up seating as mere add-ons), floor space opens up for movement, collaboration and independent work.
The consistent (and beautiful!) tables can easily be reconfigured to create bigger or smaller work areas as needed, so space isn't taken up with tables that only serve one purpose.
While we have a general aesthetic of natural wood, we have sprinkled that with some other active seating choices to maximize student choice in meeting their movement needs.