The classrooms at the Middle School look a little comfy. Enter Maggie Blyth’s Middle School social studies class and you are greeted with a number of different seating options including standing desks, balance balls, and bean bag chairs. Maggie and other adopters of a flexible seating classroom are doing more than just providing a different chair to sit in, they are encouraging collaboration and focused student engagement.
“Many students, especially middle school sixth graders, find it hard to focus when they are confined to a stiff chair that is connected to a desk. What I have found with flexible seating, is that students find it easier to focus because they are given a choice in how they would like to learn in my classroom.”
Do standing desks encourage more focus in the classroom? In the workplace, standing desks are populating offices more often and studies are starting to show that the use of standing desks is linked to increased productivity. For Maggie and her students, she has found that standing desks are quite popular, and students seem to participate more when using them.
“The Grade 6 boys seem to love them. The focus I get from my students with the standing desks is so interesting. Who would have thought that balancing on one foot during class would be the key to increasing a student’s engagement?” says Maggie.
Standing on one foot and bouncy balance balls may sound like an accident waiting to happen. However, Maggie believes her students are at the perfect age to handle the responsibilities of a different kind of classroom.
“Middle School students are my favorite age group. They are right on the brink of becoming a young adult and they still act silly at times. But, they are perfectly capable of handling the rules of a flexible classroom,” she says.
Maggie’s students understand the benefits of flexible seating as it makes it easy for students to gather for group discussions and collaborate on projects. Interestingly, the study of ancient Greece has played an intricate role in students’ seating choices.
“It has been entertaining seeing our studies of ancient Greek cities influence the type of seating the students choose to meet with their groupmates. For example, the Sparta group chose to use the standing desks because they say a Spartan would never sit down. And the Athens group chose the bean bag chairs because they are philosophers and need to sit to think,” says Maggie.
“Parker is a special place. The sense of community is very strong among the students and the faculty. There is just a pure joy of learning and collaboration that is contagious.”
Maggie came to Parker in 2018, bringing with her more than 10 years of teaching experience and a passion for creating a classroom environment for all styles of learning. Prior to Parker, Maggie served as assistant principal of instruction at STRIVE Prep – Federal in Denver, Colorado where she was able to implement a variety of styles of teaching. In fact, Maggie co-founded the professional development platform for teachers, TinyPD.com, that features topics like classroom management tips, brain breaks, and flexible seating.
But at the heart of it all, Maggie says her teaching is inspired by her students when they feel like they are a part of a community in her classroom and they become genuinely invested in their learning.
Maggie says, “Parker is a special place. The sense of community is very strong among the students and the faculty. There is just a pure joy of learning and collaboration that is contagious.”