This November, middle school teachers, custodians and principals from across the Gresham-Barlow district attended a Furniture Fair held in the Deep Creek Elementary School building to check out the latest offerings in classroom furniture, and left the exhibit thrilled with the opportunities for enhanced learning.

Thanks to funding from last November’s bond, Gresham-Barlow School District is purchasing new classroom furniture to improve middle school classrooms for better educational outcomes. New tables, desks, chairs, and bookcases will be purchased for all four middle schools; Deep Creek K-8 will receive new furniture once they are moved into their to-be-remodeled facility.

Modern classrooms for a modern education

Recent research on the relationship between classroom design and educational outcomes has led to significant change over the past decade in the design of the tables, chairs, and desks schools are buying for their students. As teachers at Gresham-Barlow and across the nation increasingly design their lesson plans to optimize collaborative, team-based learning and kinetic activity, there’s a renewed focus on supplying classrooms with the flexible, mobile furniture that meets their instructional needs.

Throughout the furniture fair, teachers marvelled at the opportunities that these newly flexible and movable tables and chairs provide for enhanced learning and creative lesson plans.

Matt O’Reilly, a science teacher at Gresham’s Dexter McCarty Middle School, remarked that the ability to quickly move flexible tables would greatly improve his ability to teach abstract concepts, such as the principles of physics.

“In any of our lessons in which we are investigating motion, we need more floor space. As a teacher, you want to be able to quickly push those tables out of the way. In the past, it’d sound like Chewbacca to push the those tables and chairs away,” O’Reilly shared with a chuckle.

O’Reilly pointed out that the flexibility of the new tables, which feature the option to easily flip from traditional tabletop to personal white board, provide innovative new opportunities for students to easily jot notes and conduct arithmetic calculations while designing their labs and experiments. “These new tables make it easier to draw out your thoughts while creating your model and labs; making it easier for students to calculate on paper what they’re learning in a lab. This is exactly what we’re hoping to teach in a science class.”

Unique committee brings classroom perspective to district purchasing

Gresham-Barlow middle school staff were invited to participate in the discussion and decision-making process for the furniture via an opt-in survey sent earlier this year. The input received by teachers and faculty will significantly shape the specifics of the final order that the school district will place with the vendors. O’Reilly appreciated the opportunity to provide a teacher’s perspective on which furniture the district should purchase.

“The people in the classrooms need to be deciding what is in the classrooms. The farther removed one is from the frontline of learning, the less one knows about what we need for successful teaching,” said O’Reilly.

The 12-member committee included Gresham-Barlow principals, teachers and custodial staff, and the committee is on track to finalize the complete furniture order for Gresham-Barlow’s middle schools by next February 2018, and install the new tables and chairs in classrooms over the summer in preparation for the 2018-2019 school year.

Six Gresham-Barlow elementary schools received new furniture at the beginning of this school year; a committee of high schools teachers and staff are scheduled to review and order furniture next year with the intent of installing the furniture in the new Gresham and Barlow buildings.

West Orient Middle School Principal Catanese credits the district for creating a process that involves school staff in determining the furniture purchases. “I appreciate the opportunity for teachers and administrators to get together having their voices heard. It’s a unique part of the bond to directly receive this input to shape our investments in our children.“

Modern Classrooms for a Modern Education

The biggest beneficiaries of the new tables and chairs are Gresham-Barlow’s students, who will get more out of their instructional time and benefit from the new amenities of modern classrooms.

“It shows we care about this building we care about our students, and it’s an investment in them and an investment in our community,” stated O’Reilly.

Principal Catanese agrees. “I think this is key,” Catanese said. “Students that feel like they’re in a modern classroom are going to feel better about themselves. They’re going to be more comfortable, and they’re going to learn more.”