There are a surprising number of elements to consider when selecting tables for a modern, innovative, agile learning space. But there is not just one solution. A learning room should contain the table, or combination of tables, that best suits the needs and desired learning outcomes of the pupils.
Rectangular tables are by far the most common shape used in schools but they take up a lot of room and reduce circulation space and opportunities for reconfiguration. One simple trick to maximise space whilst still using the traditional rectangular table is to choose a narrower depth table. Many schools are surprised to discover that there is not just one dimension of rectangular table available for classrooms; but reducing the depth, for example from 550mm to 450mm, saves a surprising amount of space without compromising usable workspace. Primary pupils rarely use the entire traditional table surface.
For those schools keen to move away from the traditional rectangular shaped table, semi-circular or trapezoidal tables increase the amount of circulation space in the room (depending on size) and allow a variety of different configurations for different learning scenarios. These are especially useful for practical work where resources are shared. Individual tables, designed to allow a variety of configurations, are increasingly popular in some schools, especially when they can be configured to interlock with each other. They allow the teacher to better undertake one-to-one support and when arranged in a horseshoe or semicircular shape allow him or her to literally get in the middle of the group for focused work. They also enable pupils to work in any combination of group sizes, from individuals and small groups through to the whole class.
Mobility, weight and collapsibility of desks should also be considered in the learning space that needs to be transformed for different pedagogies. Many individual desks can be packed to one side easily, through either vertical stacking or horizontal stacking, if equipped with flip lids. Those desks that come with at least one wheel means that pupils of most ages can help in moving them, freeing up more time to undertake an activity. This feature also reduces heath and safety issues as desks do not need to be lifted.
Schools looking for a more colourful, modern look are tending to select interestingly random shaped tables which still interlock together but provide space for several pupils to work. These are most commonly used for practical or project work and can create a really fresh feel in a learning room.
There is a significant trend now away from the traditional mock wood surface, to schools selecting a light colour such as white or light grey. This immediately lightens the room and helps make it a more appealing modern looking space. Although some have shied away from the idea of light tables, experience has shown that white tables have encouraged pupils to look after them better as any mark shows up straight away, whereas on ‘wood’ tables marks can often be hidden and added to without detection for some time. Desks are now even available with ‘write on’ table surfaces to foster creative ideas generation and design tasks.