The Presentation School began to consider and research the idea of new furniture during the 2015-16 school year.
“The faculty felt existing furniture was impeding our ability to be flexible with our space and meet our students’ needs,” says assistant head of school Tracy Walthard. “Our board of trustees approved fundraising toward the initiative, with a projected $100,000 needed.”
Teachers were invited to an after school symposium to explore the idea of applying design thinking to furniture adoption. They were then challenged to consider the needs of the classroom from a teacher and student prospective, record their ideas, and even complete floor plans.
“’Dream Big,” was the theme,” said Walthard. “We didn’t want a sense of what is possible to limit our vision. In addition to teacher participation, teachers brought the idea of, ‘What is needed in the ideal classroom to enhance student learning?’ directly to the students.”
The staff reached a consensus that the furniture should serve two purposes. It had to be flexible in movement to allow a classroom to quickly transform between whole group instruction, to group instruction, to individual work space. Secondly, research on healthy student movement and learning compelled the faculty to look beyond tradition and explore furniture that not only moved within the room, but allowed the students to move.
A demo classroom was set up in the school’s seventh grade homeroom with various options and the students spent a week learning in the classroom. When the seventh grade was away at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival, all other grades had the opportunity to use the room to provide both teacher and student experiential feedback.
Presentation contracted with the furniture design company, Kay-Twelve, who worked with the school from renderings though installation.
Working within a budget, and a commitment to replace all student furniture in every classroom, multiple options for each grade were presented to teachers. Additional samples of furniture were ordered for demo. In early spring, a preliminary order was placed.
Every classroom has at least two desk/table seating options, and all classrooms have furniture on casters or glides for quick arrangements from whole class, groups and individual seating. In first and second grade, students sit in chairs that rock.
“I like how our chairs spin and can move around freely,” said eighth grader Mason Rooney.
“The rolling chairs are great because you can take a book and roll your chair to wherever you want to work,” added third grader Vivianne Bordelon.
Fourth grade teacher Alex Haley added that she loves the finish on the student desks that allow students to use them as whiteboard board space.
“New furniture improves learning and it’s a key element in instruction, however furniture alone doesn’t change education; only teachers do that,” said Walthard.
The previous furniture used in the school’s K-8 classrooms and science room was donated to the Sonoma Valley Unified School District.