Griswold, CT (January 27, 2022) – Griswold Middle School, serving students of Griswold and Jewett City in grades 5-8, has recently integrated Flexible Seating into classrooms. This innovative initiative is part of Griswold Middle School’s (GMS) emphasis on student engagement through active learning.
Flexible seating implements non-traditional classroom seating options that GMS Principal Louis Zubek calls “levels of learning,” physically represented as seating at various heights in the classroom to gain different perspectives. This empowers students by giving them a choice of where they sit and who they sit with, based on how they best learn and where they will be comfortable. Having this degree of control at school benefits Social-Emotional Learning (SEL), a main goal of Griswold Public Schools. Flexible seating also helps students collaborate easier and positively impacts physical health.
The first stages of implementing flexible seating at GMS was done in three fifth grade classrooms. These classrooms have the full spectrum of flexible seating, including low tables with floor seating, high top tables for standing, and regular height tables with various chairs such as wobble chairs, yoga ball chairs, and stools. Moving in these chairs or standing increases oxygen flow to the brain, blood flow, core strength, metabolism, and calories burned. Sensory input, like that offered by flexible seating, has long been known to benefit students with attention deficit hyperactivity disorders and autism spectrum disorders. Now, all students in these classrooms are gaining the benefits, keeping young minds more alert and focused.
After positive feedback from teachers, students and parents, teachers throughout the building have begun to embrace the benefits of flexible seating and are adapting their instruction to this new culture and sense of community in their classrooms. For instance, two eighth grade English Language Arts teachers have designed their rooms to resemble a coffee house. This includes an open floor plan with couches, coffee tables, and high-top tables which are arranged in a semi-circle. Throughout all flexible seating classrooms, teachers have worked to create a system to make seating choices fair and nondisruptive.
“I was inspired by other Connecticut schools that integrated flexible seating. I shadowed a class that had options such as ball chairs and wobble chairs, and found that it helped keep me more alert and engaged,” said Griswold Middle School Principal Louis Zubek. “I am excited to bring flexible seating to Griswold Middle School. It is becoming clear to GMS teachers that a student’s learning environment has a direct impact on their achievement and behavior.”
As educators continue to study the benefits of flexible seating, GMS plans to continue researching alternative seating options, and eliciting feedback from teachers, students and parents. “The hope is to expand this new culture throughout the building, and even into Griswold Elementary School, to continue to improve students’ academic performance and social-emotional learning in Griswold Public Schools,” noted Zubek.