Does the classroom of the future look more like a coffee shop?

By Suzanne Perez Tobias, The Wichita Eagle
October 5th, 2016

Flexible furniture and open seating are changing the nature of learning

flexible future

Peek inside Brittany Horning’s second-grade class at L’Ouverture Elementary School, and you’ll see kids sprawled on large ottomans, perched atop bouncy seats, lying back on gamer-style recliners and using footstools as makeshift desks.

It looks more like a living room or a neighborhood coffee shop – minus the whirring espresso machine – than a traditional classroom with rows of desks.

“The kids really enjoy being in this environment. It feels comfortable to them,” said Janelle Roland, who oversees the school’s teacher training and behavior plan.

“It’s been a really interesting and fun and exciting thing to put into place.”

L’Ouverture, a computer and technology magnet school near 13th and Mosley, is experimenting with flexible seating – long benches, standing desks, bouncy chairs and wedge cushions – in the hopes of encouraging creativity and collaboration.

Horning and fifth-grade teacher Candice Ulbrich ditched their stash of desks and tables this fall in favor of classroom furniture designed for lounges and common areas. This spring, the other 16 classrooms at L’Ouverture will undergo similar transformations.

The idea: Flexible seating arrangements better reflect modern, 21st-century learning styles.

Students with iPads or laptops work together more easily on a big cushion in the middle of a room than at individual desks. They talk, peer over shoulders, ask questions, share discoveries.

“They’re able to sit and actually have conversations with each other about their work,” said Ulbrich.

Next page: The real cost of the change

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