Teaching and learning during COVID-19

Schools teaching in-person during COVID-19 have been able to easily adapt their spaces, with VS America's agile furniture, in order to follow safety precautions to reduce the risk of virus transmission. Creating a physically distant classroom environment happens quickly by stacking unneeded tables and chairs out of the way. And, mobile, stackable furniture that fits through doorways ensures schools can quickly expand into hallways, foyers, and gyms as needed.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic it is critical to practice physical distancing, but we also need to remember to still support collaboration and communication. Adding a mask eliminates the mouth from view, but there are dozens of other physical cues sent and received to support communication between students. This is precisely why we need to avoid setting up classrooms where students are only seeing the back of another's head. Shift+ tables provide the agility educators need to easily adjust educational environments so students can still utilize their sensory systems to communicate more deeply and collaborate with one another, while maintaining physical distancing."

– David A. Stubbs II, Creator of Shift+ product line

Distance learning engagement

VS America's agile furniture can be used to create various spaces and zones in the room, allowing for social integration and quality interactions. During distance learning these agile environments give teachers the needed space to deliver private, actionable feedback to support students in self-selecting learning targets, self-monitoring progress, and self-assessment.
  • Social integration with line of sight into the classroom with acoustical supports
  • Micro-collaborations with peers in virtual breakout spaces
  • Place identity through in-person and distance learning groups
  • Increase in student participation with the incentive to belong to the physical spaces
  • Technology easily supported for rapid transition between in class and fully remote

Lessons learned from COVID-19

“COVID has exposed inequalities that are especially apparent in kids who have fallen off the radar because their environment outside of school is not safe. We need to come out of this with a new focus on what health and well-being mean, not just for students, but teachers, administrators, and the whole community that surrounds a school."

– Jill Ackers, Learning Designer

VS' roots in education fondly trace back to a relationship with Maria Montessori, whose pioneering approach to education has focused on the whole child from the start. Flexibility, agility, and the ability to move freely have been the basis of our products for generations. COVID has brought these necessities to the forefront of educational thinking for everyone. Individual freedom of choice and situational comfort set the stage for success, and mobile furniture is paramount to be able to quickly handle unexpected challenges.

"Hopefully, we all emerge from this with a newfound appreciation for the joy of learning. We are learning new ways of doing things we've been doing the same way for a long, long time. We are becoming more mindful of the transparency between academic-, social-, and emotional- learning. We are going to bring all of this into our school experiences in positive ways that will be amazing when we come out of COVID."

– Aaron Jetzer, Elementary School Principal

There are many thing to consider for future learning experiences:

  • Recognize there is a major digital divide across North America, and it impacts both educators and students.
  • Teach teachers how to embrace 21st century practices using time-honored teaching models.
  • Demand for a portion of the hybrid, FLIP, or Blended learning practices could be here to stay.
  • Teach students how to navigate in a digital world, preparing them for their future needs.
  • Remember whether online or onsite, student engagement in an authentic way is critical for their learning progress - and technology and spatial designs play important roles here.
  • Keep a future-focused view in place for active learning, remembering all we know about how we actually learn.

- Dr. Lennie Scott-Webber

Agile furniture = future-proof

Agility means that classrooms can be configured optimally for physical distancing as well as the material being taught. It also means that whatever new challenges the future brings, classrooms can be easily configured to meet them, making them effectively future-proof.

"Everyone has to spend money to replace classroom furniture. But when you can take that opportunity to shape the learning in terms of form, in terms of function, in terms of the types of learning activities they can support - the benefits are tremendous. The beauty in creating these types of spaces is that they are going to be just as functional 10 or 20 years from now."

– Jomey Robertson, Trovation and Creativity Coordinator

Helping students with learning loss

Agile classrooms create spaces for quality interactions to address prior knowledge gains and gaps, while allowing for prosocial peer relationships to foster academic dialogue.

Agile spaces help address student learning loss by:

  • Social belonging through interactive peer supports
  • Increased participatory relationships
  • Allowing teachers to prioritize instruction alongside development of social and emotional skills
  • Promoting movement through furniture to allow for breaks without affecting the rest of the class
  • Facilitating various teaching and learning methodologies (cooperative learning, student- centered learning, project-based learning, among others)

A student-centered learning environment shifts the focus of instruction from the teacher to the student. The goal of student-centered learning is to develop students who are autonomous and independent - the environment is centered on student agency by placing the responsibility of learning on the students. Research supports that this type of methodology addresses social and emotional well-being, affords teachers more opportunities to address learning losses, and creates interactive hybrid and fully distanced modes of learning. Watch this video, created with learning designer Jill Ackers, about fostering student well-being in elementary learning spaces.

Reengaging students when they're back in school

Physical spaces can help eliminate communicative barriers and foster opportunities for reengagement for both teachers and students. Agile classroom design allows students to:

  • Circle up together to openly communicate and share
  • Reconnect in smaller, collaborative groups in private nooks
  • Decompress alone in quiet spaces when necessary

On-demand webinar: How physical spaces impact well-being

It’s possible to create physical spaces that help build opportunities and break down barriers for deep connection, healing, and exploration. Watch VS’ on-demand webinar with diverse practitioners – including a school administrator, clinical officer, social justice specialist, learning designer, as well as students – to discover how schools can create the spaces students need.

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