As states ease stay-at-home restrictions, many school districts are grappling with whether to begin the next school year virtually or back in the classroom.
To explore how people feel about distance learning and returning to school, we’re interviewing students and teachers from kindergarten through college. One K-12 principal told us he is worried that full-time virtual learning would not be as beneficial for students or teachers. “Staff and parents are exhausted. Students miss their friends,” he said.
Returning to school may require a significant departure from the classrooms we’re familiar with. In recent years, K-12 teachers and administrators have prioritized curriculum and classroom designs that support movement and collaboration. Such “active learning” is informed by research that shows kids learn best when they have freedom to move around, collaborate and interact with peers and teachers.
Will it be possible to continue active learning in the era of social distancing? We think so. It will just look a little different. Here are some tips for creating dynamic classrooms while keeping students and educators healthy.
Pair Mobility with Distance
Teachers can still incorporate movement in their lessons -- as long as it happens at a safe distance. Perhaps they’ll assign smaller reading groups or arrange mobile chairs and tables so that students can roll to different corners of the room to collaborate.
KI’s Learn2, Ruckus, Doni and Intellect Wave chairs can be equipped with casters to facilitate movement. Doni chairs can be paired with ChangeUp Tablet Arms to give students a personal writing surface for group work. At the end of the day, staff can easily wipe down the chairs’ polypropylene plastic seats and laminate tablet arms to prevent the spread of germs.
Experiment with Table Shapes
In active learning environments, educators often foster collaboration by seating students together at tables rather than at individual desks. When schools reopen, teachers and parents alike may be nervous about students sitting shoulder-to-shoulder at a standard table.
In response, teachers may consider creative table shapes that create larger worksurfaces and greater distance between students. Pirouette tables, for example, are available in shapes like 120° scale up tops. They can be pushed together to create large, cleanable laminate surfaces that give students space to work together safely. Pirouette and Pillar tables are available in additional top shapes like the guitar pick or sprocket which naturally creates spacing among students, sitting organically around the table’s grooves.
Approach Personalized Instruction Safely
Teachers who move from student to student to offer individualized help are a staple of active learning environments. One elementary school student we interviewed said, “I wouldn’t like to continue distance-based learning [all of the time] because it’s easier to get help from a teacher while in school.”
To continue personalized instruction, administrators may utilize mobile teacher podiums, like our Ruckus height-adjustable lectern. Teachers can safely rove around a classroom to offer one-on-one help. With a steel frame, laminate worksurface and acrylic modesty panel, Ruckus lecterns are easy to sanitize.
Active learning environments help students thrive because they can socialize and collaborate freely. One high school student said, “I don’t want distance-based learning for weeks on end, but I’d take a day or two here and there. That would allow me the time to spend with friends and [get] help from teachers.”
Learning is a social experience. Redesigning classrooms to safely incorporate collaboration and interaction can help students continue to learn even when social distancing is the new norm.