If you think public school classrooms haven't changed much in the last 50 years, you may be surprised to learn what is in store in the next half century. Examples of innovative learning environments can already be seen in newly built schools such as McBride and Browning high schools.
Long Beach Unified School District is finalizing its latest update to Education Specifications which guides how campuses will be designed and built in the future. These specifications are revisited every three to five years to ensure that the district keeps up with the latest thinking on addressing learning, environmental and regulatory requirements.
The 21st Century classroom model includes four major considerations:
A Flexible Layout
To personalize learning, the driving concept behind 21st Century classroom design is flexibility. Students' days are full of choices that empower them to decide how they learn best, and they need an environment that supports that. An agile space also gives teachers the ability to respond to different students' needs.
Typically, classrooms will include a group gathering area, multiple seating options and a flex zone that can be adapted for unique learning activities. This layout allows for a variety of grouping formats and lesson types for students' widely varying learning styles.
Furniture for Utility
Standard desks are being replaced with a variety of portable seating options to allow for maximum utility of the space. Examples include yoga mats, exercise balls, standing tables, sofas and floor tables.
On average, children spend a total of ten hours a day sitting. To giving students more options, classrooms of today are designed to allow students to rock, bounce and rotate while they are sitting to enhance circulation and concentration throughout the day.
These classrooms also increase functionality for students by lowering whiteboards and making materials easily accessible.
It's no surprise that technology integration is a key aspect of modern classroom design. New designs for classrooms use technology as a tool to stimulate curiosity and inspire students' desire to learn. Laptops, tablets or mobile devices put information at students' fingertips and motivate them to research and make their own discoveries.
Technology integration allows students to move at their own pace whether they are looking for opportunities for enrichment or need help to catch up. Plus, learning at the right level and pace helps keep students engaged, reducing inappropriate classroom behavior.
A Light-Filled Environment
Lighting is an important part of 21st Century classroom design. Bright fluorescent lighting is being replaced with natural lighting and energy efficient LED fixtures.
Studies have shown that student learning rates improve as much as 26 percent in classrooms with adequate natural lighting.
Flexible lighting levels can be adjusted for different learning scenarios such as lessons on projection screens, working on computers or tablets, or traditional paperwork.