by Blake Zalcberg, OFM, Inc.

When we talk about improving education we always look at things like class size or the curriculum to help students do better and learn more. But one thing that’s not talked about enough is the design of the classroom and the type of furniture used.

Education itself has changed drastically in the last hundred years, but a teacher from 1912 might not feel totally out of place in a classroom today.

Think about it. The basic classroom design has remained the same: A long chalkboard (or whiteboard, if you’re more up-to-date) in front of rows of chairs, almost always facing the same direction. While some teachers have a podium, they all spend most of the class time standing in front of the classroom.Today’s children use computers constantly and are connected on their cell phones, but their classrooms are designed to watch a single person speaking. They spend much of their work lives collaborating in small groups, but their chairs all face forward.

So how can we design a 21st century classroom? Furniture can play an important role. For starters, students should have larger desks designed to accommodate the technology that they are using regularly. The desks should also be laid out to allow them to interact with each other instead of passively listening.

To promote creativity, the desks should come in a variety of colors and styles, and they should be comfortable, environmentally sound and solidly built. In short, it should look like the kind of desk you would want to sit at, not just one you have to sit at.

The days of the single desk and chair are in the past. Children need up-to-date classrooms that promote collaboration and furniture that meets the times. This will help them get ahead.

Images courtesy of the Minneapolis Public Schools Online Historical Archive and Dr. Ashley Tan