At Merrit Brown Middle School in Panama City, Florida, students and teachers are discovering that flexible seating creates an open classroom environment.
Teacher Nina Treadway had a conversation with her seventh graders about their experience in school, and she found out a few surprising things. First, the plastic chairs are hard and uncomfortable, and students sit in them seven periods a day. Secondly, teachers expect students to sit still, but that can be difficult when they have already been sitting still in other classes. And finally, the campus can seem almost like a prison to a middle schooler.
″‘Institutional’ was the word we came up with,” Treadway said.
So Treadway and a handful of other teachers started researching flexible seating, an idea that’s starting to gain traction in classrooms across the country. Teachers bring in other seating options — couches, armchairs, bean bags, carpet squares, bar stools — to create a more open and collaborative environment.
The teachers from Merritt Brown attended a conference in Nashville, and toured a school which is entirely flexible. Treadway said that it looked more like a Starbucks than a traditional high school. Principal Charlotte Marshall gave the project approval if teachers could get funding.
“There were some restrictions,” Treadway said. “Yoga balls she was not a fan of, because they’re middle schoolers.”