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Modern Learning Environment Furniture Tips

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Started by Nix 17 Oct 2014 7:27pm () Replies (11)

We all know Modern Learning Environments are not just about furniutre and spaces; however, it is a start and is what my school is currently investigating.  Is there anyone out there who has tried things that have really worked for them or that they really value as part or their MLE?  Any comments thoughts are greatly appreciated as this is just the beginning of the journey for us.


  • Lex (View all users posts) 30 Oct 2014 12:06pm ()

    Hey Nix,

    We are working to open a new MLE school in the Cook Islands and have been thinking about the 'purpose' step after going through some of the research. We were given plans with breakouts modelled on Campfires and waterholes type model (http://ulearn.core-ed.org/modern-learning-environments. We looked at the purpose, what furniture we could source. We created a document https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1hUTpGgizXsRjVpbklndTZIemM/view?usp=sharing to share with the community for feedback. This will form the basis of our experimentation, discussion and review.


  • Nix (View all users posts) 19 Oct 2014 3:41pm ()

    Thanks so much for all your thoughts, tips, links and excellent input.  I can see there is a lot our school needs to consider.  Love the idea of trying furniture out and gaining student voice too.

  • Matt Ives (View all users posts) 19 Oct 2014 10:00am ()

    A lot of great suggestions here.

    I want to echo two things: prototyping / trialling first, and focusing on furniture which enhances the kinds of learning your school values.

    Prototyping - this is a great chance to get the kids involved. Why limit yourself to furniture which has already been designed! Come up with all new furniture based on what they see as needs. Probably a bit pie-in-the-sky, but useful in that it will guide you towards what the students see as useful features, and it's a good old, meaningful, hands-on, authentic inquiry topic. But try before you buy - get a few bits and bobs and see how it goes, getting feedback from all stakeholders.

    Keeping the learning central - We all know feedback is one of the most important elements in good learning. How are your spaces and furniture encouragning good self / peer / teacher feedback? Collaboration is important, but equally so is the time and space to find individual flow and focus. How will your furniture enhance these aspects of good learning?

    And I'll mention expectations - It's silly to have wobbly stools if you don't let students wobble, or twirlly stools if you don't let students twirl. Much of the modern furniture allows movement, so you need to be cool with that (within certain bounds, of course).

    And the last thing (which is related to trialling first) - be carefuly with weight activated, air-pressure controlled stools. Our littler kids can't make them go down without a few people piling up on them. And if they are under a table over the weekend, they will pop up, pushing the table up. We've had a computer get bumped off the table because of this.

    Hope those few notes help :D

  • Chris Meehan (View all users posts) 19 Oct 2014 10:19am ()

    Agreed Matt - bean bags can be incredibly noisy and it seems to be difficult to find good manufacturers of solid bean bags which will withstand teenage kids in particular, even when they do follow the agreed guidelines! But if you get beanbags, expect movement to get comfy, and noise in the process.

    I have seen one area for year 7/8 students with a range of furniture which they purchased off Trade Me, which I think is primo on a number of levels.

    Thanks Dave for the lead-in to the wobbly stools.

  • Dave Knapman (View all users posts) 18 Oct 2014 6:27pm ()

    Hi Chris

    Those wobbly stools look great.  They are available in NZ from Distinction furniture, 8 Couldry Street, Eden Terrace, Auckland. http://www.distinction.net.nz/Site/Seating/The_Hokki_Stool.ashx

  • cathie zelas (View all users posts) 18 Oct 2014 5:43pm ()

    Hi Nix

    I agree with others that Chris has done a great summary of the key considerations. Karla's point about focusing on the use of spaces for determining furniture needs is also a good way to go.

    We have just furnished our completely rebuilt school - all MLE spaces. As others have suggested trialling furntiure first is the way to go as is the "less is more" approach. We trialled furniture from 3 companies in our old classrooms before purchasing for our new spaces which gave us an opportunity to gather student voice and to see which types worked best for different age groups.

    We haven't gone for one colour scheme overall as a school for furntiture. Instead we let each learning team choose their colours. This gives an individual flavour to each learning centre despite each building being the same design and having the same colour scheme for carpets, wall covering etc.

    In our junior school we particuarly love the whiteboard topped jellybean tables for small group teaching. Also quarter round ottomans with backs. We have 3 of these in each T3 space and they are great for defining spaces and also a lovely place for parents and children to gather before school to read books etc. Line of sight is an important consideration too, so instead of higher bookcases in our junior learning centres we've gone for low book bin trolleys. These are easily accessible for young children and also have the advantage of being able to be moved around.

    Happy to share some photos if that's of any help. cathie.zelas@halswell.school.nz

  • Chris Meehan (View all users posts) 18 Oct 2014 5:12pm ()

    I believe that a really big part of the furniture to have or not to have story, is about consulting and negotiating with the students. This year myself and another teacher have combined our classes across two single cell rooms and began with some desks and chairs as well as high bar tables, ottomans, bean bags and cushions. By the end of Term 2, the children had decided that they were no longer needing the security of desks and chairs, but it was a good experience to go through for them, to actually discover that for themselves. 

    One thing I would really like to get several of, and I know that some children want them too, after seeing them on video clips, is the wobby stools. Nice for antsy kids who need to keep moving!

  • Karla Hull (View all users posts) 17 Oct 2014 10:14pm ()

    Hi Nix

    Furniture guru - that is one I haven't heard that I've been called before - thanks, Hamish!!  As Hamish has mentioned, I'd be happy to share photos etc at my above email.  But Chris has pretty much summed it up.  Less can be more.  Different heights/levels etc.  We focused on our learning settings/spaces - type of learning - type of furniture.

  • Chris Bradbeer (View all users posts) 17 Oct 2014 8:49pm ()

    Hi Nix

    This is a couple of year's old but still relevant I think:


    Key lessons in furniture procurement:

    1) Don't buy too much - you can always buy more as you learn more about the requirements of learners and your space. In my opinion less is certainly more. When it comes to furniture you can certainly have too much of a good thing.
    2) If your intention is for flexibility and you buy too much furniture,  however well designed it is, you have nowhere to actually flexible it into!
    3) Different learners like different heights. 
    4) Whiteboard tables, used well, are great!
    5) Think about the learning settings you're after first, and then decide what sort of furniture will best lend itself to it. Starting with the 'why?', as always, leads to a better result in practice. 
    6) Think about an overall school philosophy on colour - do you want to go for lots of coloured tables, or a simpler look and let soft furnishings 'pop' with colour.
    7) And of course, as Hamish suggests, get lots of student voice. 
    8) Note though, if learners haven't experienced different styles/ heights/ designs etc they may need to build a bit of knowledge to start with. Try to prototype/ borrow samples etc in order to find out what works best in your context. Many furniture companies will be happy to lend out a few samples to help the process.

    Hope that helps. Happy to share some more thoughts, photos etc.


  • Hamish McLean (View all users posts) 17 Oct 2014 7:46pm ()

    Hi Nix,

    I think you'll need to speak to our D.P.  She is the furnature guru, and ordered up a storm this year.  In previous years the school made do with hand-me-downs and modifying existing spaces and furtnature to suit our needs.

    I'm sure she has photo's that she can share with you.


    We had students as a big part of the furnature selection process, after all it's the students that use them. 

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