Forget about rows and columns of desks with chairs neatly set up in a grid pattern because the classroom of tomorrow (and today, hopefully) is less formal and allows for ad hoc groups to form to work on problems, complete a project or just quietly read. Nowhere is this notion of change in the classroom more evident than in the latest thinking in school furniture. Whether it’s a padded reading stool or a self-contained desk on wheels, students are the winners.
The best classroom organizational ideas often show up where we least expect them, such as Paragon’s Blender seating. The upholstered Blender measures 18- by 18- by 36-inches and sells for $350. Several can be combined in a variety of shapes, including a hexagon and an undulating snake-like shape. Made of hardwood, plywood and foam padding, the seat is covered in a stain resistant vinyl fabric that’s available in 17 colors.
In a new take on a classic, Steelcase’s Node chair-desk can go both ways: it can live in a regimented classroom gird or be wheeled around for small group work. The molded seat is not only height adjustable but it swivels so that kids can interact with each other and the 7.25- by 15.0-inche work surface can pivot to make it easier to get in and out. Underneath, Node has a circular storage space that’s perfect for backpacks and stray books. You can even order it with a cup holder that makes a great place to stow pencils.
SmithSystem’s UXL Crescent Table takes this idea to the limit with a semicircular design that can accommodate two or more students on its own or be combined with others to deliver large work spaces. Measuring 29.5- by 72- by 36-inches, the Crescent system can be arranged in a variety of shapes, from a triangle to an undulating snake. It even has a connection center for kids and teachers to plug in.
Even the library can do with some updating these days. Openingthebook’s Reading Nook is both a padded comfy chair and a set of four shelves on the other side that can hold up to 140 books. It can comfortably seat a pair of small children for reading time. Made in Birmingham, England, there’s also a circular wrap-around version.
Sometimes the best way to deal with an over-active student is to let him burn off some energy, like with Virco’s Analogy Rocking Chair. An offshoot of the company’s Analogy 4-Leg design, the rocker has a contoured plastic seat that provides back support. The seat fits to the body and it has a plastic nub in the back to keep over-exuberant kids from tipping over. The chair is available in three sizes.