DAN CEARNS The Standard
UXBRIDGE: Elementary schools in Uxbridge have started using a new innovative classroom design to provide students the learning environment they need.
Uxbridge Public School launched an initiative called flexible classrooms, on Tuesday, January 24th. Two classrooms had the rows of desks removed in favour of alternative seating stations, such as exercise balls, camp chairs, bean bag chairs and stools. There are also yoga mats for students who would like to lie down and work.
Principal Laurel Galt explained the main goal with this initiative is to encourage self regulation.
"What's great about it is that it is free flow, so if they feel that they need to increase their energy a bit they may go and select one of the exercise balls, and when they are sitting at a table or desk on the exercise ball they may need to bounce a little bit to get themselves focused again,” Ms. Galt said. “If they want to do group work, they may go to the picnic tables and do work there, where there is a bigger space. It allows them to self regulate. If they need a break from the noise, they may go to one of the bean bag chairs and take a little table and work by themselves, and then people know to give them some space.”
Ms. Galt explained that this type of classrooms style helps students that suffer from anxiety.
“I know that there are students in every single classroom that families have concerns over mental health to one degree or another. We have had students currently and in the past who have had so much anxiety they can't come to school and it takes months to support them to get them to be able to come to school,” she said. “It's alive and well in the community. To me, this is a fabulous way to support the kids in what we can to make a difference for them.”
Uxbridge P.S. teacher Amy Teed said she has already seen a big difference in how her students stay on task.
“Our washroom sign-out and drink sign-out is a lot shorter. I would have some kids that would try to leave the classroom maybe six or eight times per day just to try to avoid doing work or if they are feeling anxious about something and looking at the list they are only asking now maybe twice per day. The kids are also able to stay on task much longer than before,” she said.
Ms. Galt agreed that the initiative has been successful so far.
"As a principal, when I am walking in the hallways I see the same two or three students from every class in the hallways that frequently need to have that break and it's dramatically reduced that,” she said. “Students are back in the classroom learning and it has made a big difference.”
Joseph Gould Public School was the first Uxbridge elementary school to launch the flexible classrooms initiative.
“We knew there needed to be an alternative out there to the traditional classroom environment. We felt this was the right direction to try,” teacher Sandra Oliver said. “The flexible learning environment gives students some feel of control.”
Teacher Maryann Chilton explained to The Standard that being in the flexible classroom for one school year gives students the self regulation skills they need to succeed.
“I think Maryann [Chilton] and I have found this environment really supports student learning in the 21st century,” concluded Mrs. Oliver.
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