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Why, when there is now so much evidence that students engage and focus better when they aren’t stuck in rigid rows of desks, is mainstream education still full of those rows of desks from the industrial era?

Well, there are a few reasons. The first is obviously cost: when school furniture already exists, budgets rarely include replacing it. Although the bigger reason, more often than not, is that educators, students and curriculum leaders aren’t invited into the decision-making process. Teachers are rarely asked for feedback about how their classroom and the furniture within it fits with their pedagogical plans.

There is obviously a huge disconnect here and an area of great frustration for educators. They are the ones at the forefront of supporting students learning but are infrequently consulted on how best to create learning environments that support their students.

As we are all experiencing, the world is changing very fast and we acknowledge it’s challenging to keep up. But the students of today are about to enter a very different workforce than the one we did and they need more than just academic skills and knowledge. As ‘Transcend Education’ describes, “They also need learning-mindsets, creativity, communication and collaboration, critical consciousness, and leadership skills—skills that the industrial model was not designed to foster. Together, these conditions call for fundamentally new learning environments.”

Unfortunately, most decisions made regarding classroom design are made by procurement and operation managers and their decision making is largely based on tradition – and they’re not stepping into classrooms to see what’s actually happening or needed. As Jim McGarry, president and CEO of the Education Market Association puts it, “The trend is really away from classrooms that put students in stationary desks in rows.” He recognizes that change could be slow, as “it can be a cultural thing, and in many cases, it has to come from the top. If a school isn’t embracing one-to-one learning or project-based learning, the facility’s not going to change.”

Creating better learning environments is at the heart of our work at Natural Pod. Our goal is to support educators and children to thrive in their work and play. We work with you to create beautiful, flexible, inspiring classrooms by offering quality modular furniture that can easily adapt to the teaching goals. A Natural Pod learning environment supports students of all ages in exploring the ways they learn best, encouraging them to trust and discover their ideas, abilities and creativity.

So yes, it may take some time for certain mindsets in mainstream education to move away from the industrial model classroom of rigid rows of desks. But the greater and louder we all speak up about needing to provide learning environments that support our future generations to gain the skills they need, the more we’ll be heard!

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