About this time last year, something really special happened with my work as the Director of Marketing at Natural Pod. After years of helping other organizations create better learning environments, we had the chance, at least in a small way, for my own kids to enjoy the benefits of having Natural Pod tables and benches in their classroom.
Our kids have the good fortune to go to a great school, in a great community and last year a group of change making mothers in our area worked with the local school district to create an entirely new nature based learning program that would run out of Fernwood Elementary on Salt Spring Island, BC. The very school my own kids had just started attending. This new program was going to be added into the current structure of the school and would use two existing classrooms at the school. To do that, they also needed some new furniture that would support and compliment their program. With the help of one of the new teachers and a great principal, we arranged to furnish the classrooms with some of our Natural Pod better learning environment tables and benches. It was also a great opportunity to get the kids involved in not only picking up the furniture from our manufacturing facility, but to also get them involved in helping to set up the space.
It was a great success for the start of a new program and though it also gave me unique insight into how our products are used every day in the real world that I didn’t often get to see first hand. While getting kids to and from school and helping in the classroom with reading programs I was able to see how the kids and our teacher used the furniture as part of the learning experience to compliment, play, learning and collaboration which is the foundation upon which we designed our entire line of products.
We’ve gotten so much great feedback from customers over all the years we’ve been in businesses but it’s always different to see things first hand. And, it was a chance for me to take pictures over the year of some of the different ways the tables and benches were being used. Over the course of the year, three patterns emerged with how play, learning and collaboration were facilitated differently using these tables and benches:
We’ve put so much work into designing these products to fit the learners who use them. It was really clear that the tables and benches fit the kids so well they felt safe and enjoy using the tables and benches for not only learning but play. Kids took responsibility with direction from the teacher to move and create different learning spaces and experience together and that participation, enabled by the flexible heights of the furniture, helped the kids really feel like it was made for just them. It just fit so well.
We could also see over time too that the kids trusted the furniture. After standing on tables as stages, walking on benches when building forts, when sitting with groups of friends and parents together on a bench, I noticed that any tentativeness around really using the furniture to create experiences didn’t impeded them in any way. They could rely on the benches and tables to move and learn with them, even if they might not have been conscious of the importance of trusting something is well built and strong, but also light weight and flexible.
The kids in this class did everything else every other kid does on a table or bench. They sit, they play, they explore they work. It isn’t complicated, but I could see first hand what we’ve heard from so many customers. Kids have fun with these tables and benches. Big, open, flat, durable surfaces that fit together, that are light, which in the right circumstances and guidance from the teacher and parent helpers, these furnitures pieces became an extension of their learning, play and collaboration over the other conventional furniture mixed into the room.
Our kids will be back in the same multi-age, nature program next year and I’ll be watching and learning right along with them sharing any insights learned with our clients and design team to help support the continuous learning we do as a company to improve our products. We’ll check back in with the kids at Fernwood again later this year. Until then, have a look at some of the photos from the year in the life of a set of Natural Pod tables and benches:
Read the original stories of New Beginnings ~ Picking Up Our New Classroom Furniture and the story of Installing New Furniture in the School. Here’s a great time lapse video show the original install of the furniture with some of the kids and families from the program working together to setup the space:
Fernwood Elementary: Installing New Furniture in the School
Fernwood Elementary: New Beginnings ~ Picking Up Our New Classroom Furniture