STEAM- science, technology, engineering, art, and math. STEAM-related jobs are in high demand and currently account for nearly 40 percent of all high-skill positions. This is driving a change in education. Schools are rapidly revising curriculum to accommodate STEAM-based learning in the classroom. But this educational transformation goes beyond simple learning styles and lesson plans. It includes changing the entire infrastructure of the classroom. The classroom design choices we make today, will directly impact our student’s futures.
As learning continues to evolve, educators are working side by side to rapidly redesign the structures and spaces that foster new teaching pedagogies and practices. We are entrusted to facilitate innovative spaces for young students with technological backgrounds, some of whom have never known life without a device. These students learn and communicate remarkably different from prior generations, therefore we must provide them with agile spaces that encourage them to be creative, innovative, critical thinkers.
Teachers have been “flipping the classroom” from almost a decade now. This means we have to further merge in-person and online experiences so that students can learn and support one another during collaborative or independent learning exercises. Also important is that these spaces be embedded with technology so that students can become advocates of their own education. With more technology in the classroom, the subject of powering these devices is now at the forefront of design. Selecting pieces of furniture with built-in powerstrips can be key to ensuring a successful integration of new technologies.
STEAM classrooms have become synonymous with flipped classrooms, as we see more students learning through hands-on activities and working in teams than ever before. The role of the teacher has transformed into an “activator of projects” who presents a problem to be solved, answers questions, and facilitates discussion that actively engages students to think critically and self reflect. This hands-on and project-focused curriculum requires classrooms to be flexible, accommodating diverse disciplines and a more interdisciplinary approach to changing priorities and new focus areas. Students are increasingly collaborating and communicating in diverse teams across a variety of subjects. Therefore, we are configuring spaces within a single classroom that will function as a teaching lab, a team-based learning classroom, a computer lab, a lecture classroom, a student project work room, and more!
Flexibility in the classroom starts with soft seating and agile work spaces. From one moment to the next, the classroom set-up may need to be altered. From a formal lecture or presentation to a messy hands-on group project, classroom structure needs to be ever-changing. Some may argue that traditional tables and chairs could suffice these changes in education, but we are looking at a paradigm shift. We are not just changing the color, shape, or material of furniture previously utilized. Educators are reinventing the classroom by not only changing where students’ can learn but also how they do so.
Simple furniture that is lightweight and durable makes it possible to restructure the activities in a space in under 60 seconds. If it takes longer than a minute, we are not applying this correctly. We want to maximize the time spent on learning rather than focus on seating charts and moving heavy furniture. We believe that we must empower students with the freedom to create a workspace where they feel comfortable and safe so the student can make learning their top priority. I recognize a successful classroom redesign, when I enter the room and see students brainstorming in a workspace, creating a project on the floor, or collaborating around a high table.
Let’s dig a little deeper to explore some must haves for your flexible STEAM classroom.
1. Highly accessible furnishings for all students with access to power and multiple display and work surfaces.
2. Comfortable furniture. When was the last time you spent 8 hours of your day sitting on a metal chair in one position.
3. Highly mobile furniture allowing for a variety of activities to occur in one space.
4. Work spaces where students can gather together to collaborate and display their work to their peers. Sharing and collaborating is crucial in today's STEAM lab so students you have work spaces where students can gather together to work.
5. The ability to create unique spaces for each students needs encouraging individual work or quiet reading.
6. The teacher often needs to conference with an individual student or group. However, the teacher no longer needs to be tethered to a large desk. Instead, mobile desks facilitate easy movement around the classroom, enabling a teacher to come alongside a student or group of students quickly and quietly.
7. Project-based learning can be noisy and chaotic at times, and acoustic walls that provide organizational materials is one solution that addresses this concern.
8. In order to facilitate a highly productive environment, the classroom must be organized. Mobile storage units not only solve this problem, but also serve as additional seating or as an innovative work area.
It has become apparent that curriculum is changing and therefore it only makes sense that our learning environments evolve as well. Our team of Education Consultants are eager to share our unique, flexible learning spaces that support modern-day education by not only promoting STEAM curriculum, but enhancing it. Here at ELB Education, we are proud to provide flexible furniture that is harmonious with our interactive technology in order to meet the needs of all types of learners and passionate educators. It is our goal to help in the preparation of students for future success, both in and out of the classroom.
Click here to discover our range of Flexible Learning Spaces.