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“Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.”

The above quote exemplifies the essence of one of the latest and most impactful trends in 21st Century classroom learning, project based learning. Project based learning (PBL) is a teaching method “in which students gain knowledge and skills by investigating and responding to complex questions and problems.” PBL involves meaningful inquiry that fully engages students and helps them develop critical thinking skills, as well as countless other practical skills, that has lifelong personal and professional benefits.

PBL is more hands-on and collaborative than traditional teaching methods and necessitates a learning environment that adequately supports it. Your furniture choices and arrangements can, not only aid this type of learning, but they can also enhance it. Having a carefully organized space that provides small and large group projects areas, as well as intimate spaces for one, two, or three children is key. Providing different areas to choose from allows students more freedom to explore, as well as allows them to interact fluidly with one another.

By employing some of the following ideas, you can create a dynamic 21st Century classroom that inspires creativity and encourages innovation.

  • Flexible and movable furniture, in the form of tables and benches, is the foundation for a classroom environment that supports project based learning, as it can easily be moved into different sized groupings. Tables that can nest together further open up the possibilities.
  • Low tables with floor cushions are great for small group discussions.
  • Set up your classroom to encourage conversation. Benches allow you to quickly and easily rearrange your space to engage in group discussions and can be configured in an infinite number of ways to bring students together. They also allow you to adeptly move from one group conversation to another.
  • Have a tinker space available with old parts, tools, recycled objects, etc. where kids can create freely. Movement and creativity go hand in hand, as our thoughts flow better when we can move. Standing tables and stools allow this movement to happen.
  • Quiet areas with comfortable cushions for independent thought and one on one conversations are an important part of a PBL environment
  • Use mobile shelving to define the different spaces in the room.

Most importantly, involve your students in the process. They will have their own ideas about the kind of space that will inspire and motivate them. Here’s to 21st Century learning and to fostering a new generation of innovative thinkers, entrepreneurs, and problem solvers!