The active classroom: where the classroom supports the teaching
Vammarskolan is a Swedish school that has received well-deserved attention in recent years for its innovative methods and impressive results. First with the Pulse Project, which started in 2011 and showed that daily pulse-raising physical activity increases the students' reading comprehension and maths skills. Now the educators behind the project have taken their methods one step further by creating the Active Classroom, a school project to which AJ Products had the honour of contributing.
Pulse training improves school results
The Pulse Project was started by four teachers at Vammarskolan who wanted to optimise student learning based on findings about how the brain is affected by physical activity. When the trial was carried out across three academic years, the results showed that there was only one class in the school where every student was passing every subject: the randomly selected class that had extra pulse training three days a week (in addition to the two days a week when P.E. was already part of their timetable). The result spoke for itself – and has continued to do so. Since the school rolled out pulse training for the entire secondary school, its results have gone up three years in a row!
How do we bring the benefits into the classroom?
When pulse training became the norm, the teachers asked themselves: how do we take the experience further to maximise learning when in the classroom? It was clear from the beginning that the answer would be all about learning in motion.
"We learn from our feet upwards", says Mats Nahlbom, one of the founders of the project. Movement and learning belong together; this has become a pillar of teaching in the active classroom.
When the school implemented the new concept, AJ Products was asked to provide suitable furniture. We said YES, did some thinking and returned with a proposal that responds to the needs of the innovative teaching method.
School furniture that suits the teaching methods
The active classroom is furnished with sound-absorbing triangular school tables arranged in groups of three. The school chairs have an ergonomically designed seat that allows the children to sit facing forwards or to turn it around and sit backwards leaning on the backrest, which makes it easy for them to vary their sitting position. There are also several small sit-stand desks with motion stools and even a breakout sofa.
- The students work in twos or threes and learn by sharing and questioning each other's knowledge. Triangular student tables are perfect for putting together in the configurations needed for this style of learning, but they are also easy to move apart during tests.
- Standing up to work wakes up the body and facilitates learning, so the glass writing boards along the walls play an important role during lessons. This way of working also gives the teacher a better overview of the room.
- The opportunity to vary their posture makes it easier for students to stay focused on the subject. Luckily, we have school chairs that let students sit comfortably and ergonomically in a variety of positions, as well as sit-stand desks and active sitting stools.
Overall, the flexible school furniture makes it easy for students to vary their posture, which helps them concentrate. It also makes it easy to rearrange the classroom as needed to suit different learning activities.
The active classroom: four key points
- Collaborative learning means that students learn by working together and helping each other.
- Since learning is affected by physical movement, numerous tasks are performed standing and/or walking.
- Being able to vary their working position and get moving in the room makes it easier for students to focus on the task. This is supplemented with "brain breaks", short breaks that oxygenate the brain and boost energy levels.
- When students use the writing boards on the walls to work, it is easier for the teacher to see who needs help.
A sequel is already planned
The active classroom was put into use in the autumn of 2018 and is popular with both students and staff alike. The students like the freedom of movement and are pleased to be able to change how they sit and how they work. The teachers appreciate the overview it gives them of the classroom and also see the benefits of being able to help several students at the same time because they usually work in groups instead of individually.
"Adults have height-adjustable office furniture to be able to perform at their best. With the active classroom, we want to give school students the same opportunities", says Daniel Hermansson.
The active classroom is subject neutral and is currently used for both language teaching and mathematics. More subjects will follow when the school creates another active classroom in 2019. The decision has already been made.