By Mandy U., Positive School Climate Chair and Parent
In collaboration with Aisling C., Master Chef of the Smart Sushi Rolls and Parent
There are countless great things about Village, aka #coolthings, and one of my most favorite is the way our teachers focus on helping our kids learn how to be lifelong learners. According to Wikipedia, being a lifelong learner means to have a pursuit of knowledge that is “ongoing, voluntary and self motivated.” What better gift can we give our kids than the idea that learning in itself is the buried treasure they get to find at school and in life?
The journey towards becoming lifelong learners starts with knowing what types of learners we are, most commonly identified by three different styles: auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Knowing what style of learner you are can help you implement strategies that help you become successful as a learner, and hopefully, help you grow into a lifelong learner.
Our Village teachers incorporate another component into this idea of learning style by considering the environment in which kids learn. While we can’t easily change the dimensions of our classrooms, we can change the environment within the walls of our classrooms. One very creative way our teachers are doing just this is through flexible seating.
Also coined as the “Starbucks” approach to the classroom, flexible seating provides another opportunity for our kids to ask themselves, “How do I learn best?” and to try out different options. While rows of desks is one seating option, how often do you as an adult find this to be the only option? When you walk into Starbucks, you order your custom coffee, and then you select your custom seating. Where do you choose to sit and why?
“I usually gravitate towards the comfy seating choices like the couches and big chairs, and yet, I see people choose the tables and chairs over and over again. Regardless, when you walk into Starbucks, you have choice. You get to choose where you sit. No one checks you in and directs you to a spot, telling you that you must sit there for the remainder of the day to do your work. If you need to get up, walk around, or choose a different seat, you are free to do so.” (Top Dog Teaching)
By offering flexible seating in the classroom, our teachers are offering our kids a “safe” place to try out and experiment with which seating choices work best for them. These choices are the same or similar to the choices they have at home and will have throughout their lives, giving them an opportunity now to take charge of their learning.
“If we truly want to prepare our students for the real world, we need to put them in responsive, dynamic environments that reflect life outside of a traditional classroom. And what’s that life outside like? Full of choices, where adults are responsible for their own learning,” says Kayla Delzer of Top Dog Teaching.
While all of our Village teachers are implementing some form of flexible seating, teacher Aisling has completely revamped her classroom, and currently offers 20 plus different seating choices for her students. Some of those choices include sitting on the floor or carpet, a couch, bouncy balls, raised chairs, using lap desks with pillows, bean bags, stools that move up and down, scoop rocker chairs, yoga mats, hokki stools, standing or lying down on their tummies and more!
More often than not, kids in Aisling’s class have always been allowed the choice to work where they felt most comfortable, but what she found over past years of teaching is that often times several kids would want to choose the couple of “comfy/alternative” seats in the room, so providing more seating options seemed like the next step to giving her students more choice.
With so many choices, you might wonder how it works. To start the year, Aisling’s kids were assigned to seats at tables. From there, small groups of kids were allowed to try the different flexible seating options. Once the kids had ample time to explore the different options, Aisling used a rotating “first-choice seating chart” at the end of each day to allow the kids to pick their flexible seating choice for the following day. Now, the kids are choosing their flexible seating choice at the end of day Friday for the following week.
Kids in Aisling’s classroom say, “I like flexible seating because…
- “Ms. Aisling trusts you to make a great seating choice and you can try out different spots.”
- “Some of them are comfortable and I like to be comfortable when I’m working. The yoga mat and the couch worked out well for me. They were easy to work on. Sometimes the chair is better for different projects. Sometimes I look at the schedule and that helps me decide. If we’re doing this I may want to choose this.”
- “It gives you a choice to not sit at a desk everyday.”
- “It’s cozy, and I can work really well.”
- “You don’t get bored in the same seat every day.”
Many studies show the benefits of flexible seating on improved health and learning. “Dr. Sisk says that the ‘classroom without desks’ not only keeps students moving, it also makes teacher-student interaction easy. Kids crave movement. What’s more, they need movement for proper development.” (Mayo Clinic, 2006)
Aisling agrees and says she will not return to her old classroom set-up. “Flexible seating works for me and it’s good for kids. This shift in my teaching practice is going to make learning more engaging and fun for my 3rd graders!”
Teacher Aisling invites those interested to come check out her classroom. There’s no coffee, but there are plenty of seats to choose from!
Many thanks to teacher Aisling and all our Village teachers for helping our kids become lifelong learners. Flexible seating is one example from a list of many ways our teachers create such a tremendous, rich learning environment for our kids, and as a parent of three Villagers, I’m extremely grateful for all they do.