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When schools look at furniture, they usually look at furniture from one of two lenses: cost/durability or form/function. Often, there is a compromise (a $500 chair might be ideal in function, but may break the budget, for instance). As we look to replace furniture in our schools, we have asked ourselves several questions:
- Is the prospective furniture durable?
- Is it cost effective?
- Does it provide for the best learning opportunities for students?
While it would be easy to find durable and cheap furniture, it’s much more difficult to answer the last question.
Does our furniture provide for the best learning opportunities for students?
To answer this question, we have to start with the premise that learning (for both children and adults) happens more often in a collaborative environment1. Employers have told us that “soft skills” are required for all employees. These interpersonal skills are not just a benefit for customer service, but also positively affect the performance of teams of people.
Take a look at the desks shown in the photograph below. Maybe you can remember turning around to collaborate with the person sitting behind you in a desk like this - how do you “bring” your writing surface with you? How do you lay out work and look at it together? It’s far from ideal and it discourages students from collaborating.
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Why not square desks and chairs? Aren't they the most effective?