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Designing the Ideal STEM Classroom

Designing a STEM Classroom

This article is based on Hertz Furniture’s combined and extensive STEM classroom design experience. It comprehensively outlines the ideal K-12 STEM classroom and considerations for its optimal layout and furniture.

What is a STEM Classroom

The STEM classroom is a hub of project-based learning, where students come together to innovate, create, and solve problems. The unique character of this special space requires a different kind of planning than the traditional classroom. How much your students get out of this space depends a lot on how it is arranged, and what is inside. By designing a flexible space, and filling it with STEM classroom furniture, which was created for just this purpose, you will be enabling your students to make the most of their learning in this unique space.

Stem Classroom Layout

Unlike traditional classroom layouts, the STEM classroom setup requires a variety of different areas, where students can focus on different parts of the creation and problem-solving processes. There also don’t have to be enough seats for all of the students to sit at the same time, because everyone will be at a different stage of the process, at any given time. What is important, however, is flexibility and versatility, which allow students to work in the way that is most comfortable to them, and at the same time most fitting for the task at hand.

What are the Ideal Spaces for the STEM Classroom?

Group Instruction Area: This is the place where students come together with an educator to receive a new task, or get feedback. For this purpose, there needs to be an appropriate work surface for the group to sit around, as well as seating. This area doesn’t always have to be arranged for group instruction, but it does need to be relatively easy to set this up, as needed. Flexible classroom furniture is key for making this space work properly.

Small Group-Learning Spaces

Students will need places where they can collaborate and plan comfortably. These spaces should include separate work areas where students can work on projects together, from the earliest stages to completion. There needs to be enough space between each of the individual work areas for separate groups to work comfortably, and hear each other easily, without being interrupted by another group.

Ongoing Project Storage

Most projects in the STEM classroom take place over the course of multiple lessons. For this reason, students must have a safe space to store their works-in-progress, so they won’t be taken or tampered with. The project storage area can be off to the side of the classroom, or even in a large, well-organized closet. Although it is very important, there is no reason to take up precious floor space in the center of the classroom for this particular area, when it functions just as well in a less central location.

Material Storage

The more organized your materials are, the easier it will be for students to find what they need. With all of the various supplies and manipulatives that students will be using in the STEM classroom, keeping everything organized will help maximize productivity. Material storage should be organized in separate bins, which can easily be removed from a closet, cart, or cubbies. Because the individual bins can be removed and taken over to the work area, the materials storage space can be set off to the side of the classroom in one main, easily accessible area.

Testing Area

Because STEM projects are often meant to solve real-world problems, they often require testing to see if they will actually work. The testing area is where students can check how well their prototypes are working, and make adjustments if necessary. This should be an open area, without furniture, which is set at a distance from the work spaces, so testing will not interfere with the work of other students.

Printing Zone

This is where students will be printing out their plans, explanations, and even parts of their actual projects. They will only need access to this space when some part of the planning or preparation is complete, and therefore ready to go to print. That means that the ideal place for this space is in a designated area on the side of the classroom, where students can easily pick up what they printed.

Presentation Space

With all of the efforts students are putting into their projects, they need an adequate space for presenting their work to their peers. This could be a presentation cart, instructor’s station, or a designated area of the classroom. Choosing a counter-height surface for this area increases the visibility during presentations.

Display Area

This is the space which allows you to highlight all of your students creative innovations, and encourage other students, faculty, and parents to get excited about STEM learning. It should be easy to see the contents on display, but at the same time they need to be secured against tampering. A sleek glass display case with enough depth to support projects in a variety of sizes is a great idea for this area.

Whether you call your STEAM learning space a fab lab, makerspace, or STEM classroom, getting the right furniture and materials will make the space exponentially more functional. Even if you don’t have a dedicated classroom, by getting a few choice pieces of mobile equipment and furniture, you can effectively create a STEAM learning classroom in almost any venue. No matter if you have a mobile STEAM classroom or dedicated makerspace, this essential learning area will foster valuable skills that your students will take with them from the classroom, into the workforce, and beyond.

Learn more about the Ideal STEM classroom here.

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