School furniture of the future should encourage movement

The latest trend in education is Learn with Brain and Body (LEARN BNB). Experts and researchers have concluded that physical movement facilitates learning and that it is vital that learning environments and teaching methods adapt to these findings. It is no longer enough to only challenge the brain. Now, the entire body needs to be engaged.

Physical activity results in better learning

According to a report from the Nordic Council of Ministers, 68% of Swedish school children are physically inactive. But the future looks bright. Kinnarps' Trend Report about the learning environments of the future compiled in collaboration with learning environment experts in the Nordic region indicates that there will be an increase in the use of the entire body in education. Learn BNB is one of the trends which will have a large impact on our learning environments. The trend is important in many ways as being able to handle the body facilitates intellectual learning. The Learn with Brain and Body concept recognises that it is no longer enough just to use your brain, the whole body has to be involved. Classroom gyms and quiet furniture are therefore a couple of the trends that are becoming increasingly common in our schools.

 "Physical activity not only improves our health but also our short and long-term cognitive ability. Children spend a large amount of time in education the first 20 years of their lives. As a result, schools are given a unique opportunity to influence a child's physical activity levels and promote healthy living habits. This can be done for instance by creating environments that promote physical activity and introduce short exercise breaks in class," says Daniel Berglind, researcher at the Karolinska University Hospital in Sweden.

Technology and interior design

Learn BNB places new demands on both products and environments being silent while at the same time they promote movement, like rocking chairs or silent flooring. The report also reveals that technology and the Internet of Things (IoT) will in the future support movement in classrooms using sensors that alter the position of furniture and encourage pupils to stand up when they have been sitting still for a period of time. Learn BNB is all about increasing the dynamic and movement in the room in order to enhance learning. Therefore, it is important that interior design is flexible and can be adapted to the needs of individuals, groups and different teaching styles.

"Just as many workplaces are furnished with furniture that promotes movement, classrooms and learning environments are being adjusted to prevent pupils from sitting still too long. We have noticed an increase in the demand for mobile furniture, sound-absorbing products and chairs which enable movement without making any noise. There will be much going on when it comes to developing school interiors in the coming years," says Anders Larsson, Next Education Concept Manager at Kinnarps.

Five tips for an active classroom

Brain breaks

Activity breaks in the classroom with exercises the pupils can conduct without any equipment.

Classroom gyms

An area in or close to the classroom in which there is equipment and instructions for movement.

Standing desks

In the classroom to encourage pupils to vary between sitting and standing.

Mobile furniture

Furniture (with castors, for example) that is easy to move around and enables customisation for whole-class activities, group work and individual work.

Writeable surface

Create writeable spaces on various walls for jotting down ideas, encouraging teachers and pupils to move around in a larger area.

Meeting pupil needs

Our offices and workplaces are constantly changing. Interior design trends are being combined with ergonomics and creativity-enhancing elements. For the most part, we see this as a natural progression, but in many schools, time has unfortunately stood still. "Technology has changed, but classrooms usually still look the same. Desks are lined up in rows facing a board. One of the few differences in many of the schools we visit is that pupils have tablets rather than pens in their hands," Anders Larsson tells us. Schools on the cutting edge dare to challenge traditional structures and instead meet the needs of their pupils. Flexible classrooms and furniture that support variation and encourage children to move around improve the chance of good work and collaboration. It is all about accommodating individual learning processes. "It may just be that it's easier to take in the contents of the book you read in the morning when you do so from a soft sofa or rug rather than a hard wooden chair. Everyone learns in different ways. Some people do best sitting in a low chair and others in a high one. There are also those who need to be screened off or sit facing a wall. It's important to bring this knowledge into the classroom, not to mention long overdue," Anders continues.

Furnish many surfaces

An important observation is that many children feel safe sitting in a corner. This is seen in how they choose to sit along the walls. Consider, in this case, creating a classroom with more than four corners. You can use screens, textiles, high-backed easy chairs and storage units on castors to block spaces off. Create zones within a room. There are also other areas in schools that can be used more effectively. Why limit the canteen to eating? Can a passive hallway become active? And how can you create environments for spontaneous meetings and informal learning?

Can a chair and a desk affect learning?

There are a number of smart options for naturally incorporating movement and variation in day-to-day teaching. Place a standing table in the classroom to encourage pupils to stand while doing assignments. This is not only a good way to encourage movement, but often a simple one. It is also important to enable variation for work as a whole class, in groups or individually. Therefore, the interior design needs to be functional and mobile to enable customisation for the need and situation. Chairs and tables on castors make it easy to rearrange furniture into new formations or groupings. The challenge is, however, to avoid creating noisy environments. More activity should not mean more noise. Using rocking chairs or stools on quiet flooring is one way to go about this. Choosing an ergonomic chair that is customisable and adjustable, or one that rocks and has castors, encourages pupils to move while sitting. It has the added benefit of being able to adapt the chair to the height and needs of individual pupils.

Kinnarps Next Education®

"We also build places where you can sit in corners and places with soft, warm furnishings – this creates a feeling of security.”

Christer Holger, founder of Skapa School

Listen to Christer's talk on future learning environments in our Next Education concept.

To the film

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More about education

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KINNARPS NEXT EDUCATION® – research, strategy and advice for creating your ideal learning environment. In our process, we work with tangible tools and workshops to analyse your current situation and to map out your needs as well as to determine which environments your future learning environment requires. Together, we will create a unique learning environment based on your needs and requirements. A method for creating spaces for active learning.


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Do you want your own trend report?

In addition to Learn BNB, nine more trends are presented in our trend report on the learning environments of the future. The report ranges across a wide spectrum, from VR and AR gaining a foothold and how globalisation impacts on future learning to how more pupils (and parents) would like to set up their own unique education. These are trends that are more than likely to have an impact on the future design of classrooms and learning environments.


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