Rich South High School has begun the work of transforming traditional classrooms into flexible learning spaces as part of its blended learning environment. The initiative took hold during the 2017-2018 school year, with a variety of teachers informally incorporating flexible seating options in their classrooms. After data showed the positive impact this approach had on learning, School District 227 committed to fully converting five classrooms at Rich South into flexible classrooms: a Mathematics classroom, a Social Science classroom, a Reading/AP English classroom, a Pre-AP English classroom, and an AP Social Sciences classroom. “Studies consistently showed that classroom design matters to how children engage, participate and ultimately stay involved in their learning experience,” said Division Leader Amy McDonagh. Ms. McDonagh was instrumental in bringing the transformation to Rich South High School.
In 2016, Steelcase Education funded a study which showed that classrooms designed to support participative learning increased student engagement compared to traditional row-by-column seating. “Of course, it makes sense that if a classroom is intentionally designed to support different modes of learning children are more apt to stay engaged – for example, individual study, group work, presentations, peer-to-peer discussion, and one-on-one instruction.” said Ms. McDonagh. A 2008 study revealed that “Giving people some control over their surroundings adds to their sense of well-being.” Teachers have already reported that children take more ownership of the classroom (their classroom) when they can choose their seats and are given freedom to move around when needed in order to see the board, to get away from a noisy neighbor, or to sit near the window where there’s natural light.
Social Studies teacher Mr. Rashad King stated that,
"The nontraditional classroom setting has been an awesome change for me
and my students. The students for the most part feel 'more grown up' and it
helps to facilitate mature conversation during group discussion. It has been
much easier to have group projects or group activities as the students are
naturally segmented to different areas of the classroom. The nontraditional
classroom also helps with differentiated instruction. My Quick learners are
able to grab a book or Chromebook and go to the bean bags to explore learning
on their own while other students sit with me at a table for more direct
instruction. I'm able to walk up to students in the high chairs instead of
towering over them at their traditional desks. I love how its different types
of sitting so students can choose a seating that fits them. The relaxed
environment has helped my students relax." Rich South remains committed to providing the best learning
environment possible for its students and its use of flexible learning spaces
is just one aspect of its blended learning environment.