A collaboration between Koskela and boys school Newington College in Sydney’s Stanmore has resulted in two innovative prototype classrooms and a redesign of the teachers’ common room, careers space and library.
Australian furniture brand Koskela has invested three years of research and testing into its school furniture range for educational environments, using feedback from teaching teams to make sure that their designs achieve consistently positive outcomes for teachers and for students. The resulting school desks, seating and screening elements from the Koskela Learn educational furniture range are adaptable and can be reconfigured to adjust to a range of different teaching requirements. “Every new school seems to create only one type of classroom for their core classes that is used throughout, without considering that perhaps different subjects need different behaviours and experiences,” says Sasha Titchkosky from Koskela.
At Newington College, a school teaching boys from Kindergarten to Year 12, Koskela’s team worked closely with the headmaster and teachers to develop a number of different new spaces, including a maths room, humanities room, teachers’ common room, careers space and library. Realising that a one-size-fits-all approach to designing classrooms does not necessarily get the best results, the first two classrooms to be reconfigured were specifically designed as pilot classrooms or prototypes for teaching maths and humanities.
In the maths room, problem-solving was one of the main activities so the space needed to encourage that, rather than just seating students in rows facing the front. “We took inspiration from some of those ideation spaces within progressive corporate workplaces, universtities or creative businesses,” explains Sasha. “What we ended up coming up with was a room that had big whiteboard walls to encourage kids to use them collaboratively for their maths work, rather than quietly working away on their textbooks.”
The maths room was also updated to look more modern, with ceilings taken out, new carpets with a First Nations story and materials you wouldn’t normally find in a classroom, like OSB board (similar to a particle board) and LED lights with warmth in them unlike the fluorescents you usually get in classrooms.
One of the defining features of Koskela’s all Australian made education range is that, unlike most school furniture, it has specifically been designed to be repairable easily on site. Koskela’s in-house industrial team embedded the easy separation of the furniture into its components as part of their design to allow Koskela’s service team to easily repair or replace damaged components. Even the task chairs have removable upholstered covers, and the tables have softer edges and are reconfigurable. “We’ve had a lot of feedback on the comfort of the chairs and the boys at the school consistently say it’s their favourite classroom on campus, which is really exciting” says Sasha.
When it came to the redesign of the humanities classroom, it became evident quickly that this room had different needs. As reading was one of the main activities in class, especially for English, comfortable seats were sought after by the students. “In the old classroom, there were these tub chairs that the boys used to argue over, so when we came to the design, we knew we had to have softer upholstered seating,” says Sasha. The new room also has lots of plants and makes the most of the best spots under the windows.
Three other interiors in the school have also been redesigned by Koskela, helping to animate under-utilised spaces. The old teacher’s common room was more like a cafeteria, an unappealing space that was mostly unused. Now the space has been totally revamped with a new kitchen, a long dining table for lunch, and plenty of other soft seating options. “Now all [the teachers] can sit there together to encourage collaboration and cross communication between different teaching teams,” says Sasha. “There are also areas where you can sit on your own for quiet work, and a great kitchen space.”
New furniture from Koskela was also used to help make use of a space that was also under-utilised in the library. “No-one knew how to furnish it,” says Sasha. “We came up with an oval shaped layout using the modular quadrant soft sofa range so the students can move them around or you can bring them together in this layout for whole class discussions.” In the careers room, the space is now tailored for students wanting to know about how to take the next step in life, and for those outsiders coming in to give advice. The space is designed to be feel a bit more adult in the use of colours and materials. It is also easily reconfigurable as well so it can be used easily by smaller groups or whole class activities.
Working directly with the teachers on how to design classrooms and other spaces in schools is the best way to get the best outcomes for students. “There is power in a space that’s well designed and how it can make you feel,” says Sasha. “It really can influence behaviour as well.”
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Written by Penny Craswell