K12 schools are now beginning to realize that the areas between traditional learning environments (hallways, lounges, common areas, etc...) aren't just "transitional spaces" for students to pass through as they go from one place to another. Instead, these spaces present the opportunity to create connections through simple interactions.
These spaces can even be seen as an extension of the traditional classroom, for a boost in learning and collaboration. These are spaces where students can go to compare notes with each other, discuss what they've learned or review for a test. Lastly, these are also very important spaces where teachers can step out and take a break.
By giving students and educators easy, adaptable ways to turn these spaces into environments they want to use, your school would effectively be creating an extension of the formal learning environment. In light of all this, we think these shared spaces should be viewed with just as much scrutiny as the classroom!
Maximizing Every Square Foot
Since these extended spaces can be relatively limited, schools should be very cognizant when choosing their seating options. To maximizing the usability of space, flexibility is critical to give students and teachers ample choices to support different postures while learning, collaborating, focusing, etc.
You may also want to consider the addition of standing-height tables and chairs. These will help inspire people to walk up and interact with each other in a more casual way. In select situations, booth seating can also be an option that supports both socialization and studying, while offering students a bit more privacy.
When maximizing the use of your extended spaces, make sure you don't overlook fundamental productivity tools. Plenty of work surfaces, whiteboards, screens, WiFi and power sources give students the ability to easily share ideas with one another, regardless of their location. This is not only effective at increasing the functionality of the space, but including these elements will also encourage the use of these extended spaces in the first place!
Offering Space to Focus
It is true that the majority of transitional spaces are open, with students and teachers moving freely. But there can also be alternative, more secluded transitional spaces. These places give individuals the chance to focus without many distractions. You can designate these spaces by the use of "pods," or enclosures where people can enter to increase their sense of privacy without completely isolating themselves from others.
To increase their effectiveness, you can even equip them with sound-masking systems and speech privacy technology. Doing this will allow your students and staff to stay focused when they are working individually or in smaller groups!
Giving the Classroom a New Definition
So what does this really mean for your K12 school? It means that learning is no longer being restricted to the classroom or the library. With the creative use of transitional spaces, it is just as likely to take place anywhere in the building. Changing the way you think about the space in between classrooms and other environments may play a very important role in aiding both students and teachers to expand the boundaries of what we used to call the "classroom."