The children of today learn and discover in new ways. So why should interior design and furniture for schools look the same as it used to? The newly-built Sjölunda school in Lidköping has been furnished for an activity-based way of learning in which the children are encouraged to choose the place that best suits the task. In close cooperation with Kinnarps, the school's principal, teachers and children have created an innovative learning environment that prepares the pupils for the working life of the future.
"Kinnarps has a lot of great interior design solutions for offices and meetings that also work perfectly in the school environment. The collection is complete, and we've mixed and matched school furniture with office furniture and meeting furniture in the way that suited us.”
Every room offers the possibility of working at several different heights. The pupils can sit directly on the floor on the soft carpet or work at a high Origo desk which can be combined with the Xpect education chair or a higher stool, Plint. The solution permits alternating between standing and sitting on a higher stool, which stimulates a more active way of working. The classroom also offers soft sitting in the form of Wilson sofas and Invito easy chairs combined with Origo coffee tables in matching height.
Sjölunda skola has an advanced digital learning environment, which is also the basis for activity-based working. Wireless internet, computer monitors in every room and individual tablets for every pupil provide what's needed. Flexibility is the basis of every room – it should be easy to move the furniture around, in and between the classrooms. The pupils should be able to feel at ease and influence their learning environment to suit their needs. As much furniture as possible is fitted with castors – including the school storage units.
Space, which in some cases is also fitted with sound absorbers for a good acoustic environment in the school. The tables can be rearranged in project groups or in more traditional school seating configurations. The height of the school furniture is customised so that the teacher can easily get an overview of the room and quickly recognise pupils' needs.
Who said there should only be school benches and school desks in a school? In the school's innovative and sustainable learning environment, children also have the chance to discover "grown-up furniture" from the Kinnarps range for the activity-based office, such as desks from the Nexus range and pedestals from the Space range. Easy chairs and sofas, including Pio and Trix, and Fields pouffes offer soft seating. For small-group teaching or project work, it's quick and easy to rearrange the seating furniture around a table.
Sjölunda school is one of two such new construction projects in Lidköping municipality. Both schools are designed to meet the demands of the school of tomorrow, with the possibility of changing the way they are used and designed over time. Cooperation and digitalisation are the starting point when architects and interior designers design schools in collaboration with pupils, school principals and teachers.
Sjölunda school is a primary school with after-school facilities and a capacity for up to 400 children. Activities are integrated, and the premises are used by everyone, with an inviting main hall at the heart of the school. The hall is in almost constant use. There is no need to plan large-scale meetings, but the classes use the hall as and when they need to: to start the day, for short assemblies or for showing films and media. The school's library is also close by.
The pedagogical goals were the starting point right from the stage of the first sketches, and the idea was to provide the pupils with the best possible conditions for an activity-based form of learning.
"We wanted a school where the children have the possibility of developing and choosing different workplaces for different activities. The way children learn has changed greatly, and the traditional interior design of classrooms doesn't meet the new demands. We've designed Sjölunda school with respect for the fact that this is the children's working environment," the school's principal Elisabet Ingemarsson explains.
The teachers, of course, also work in an activity-based way. The staff areas are equipped with ergonomic height-adjustable desks and ergonomic office chairs, and offer different zones for different types of work tasks.
"I've been working with Lidköping municipality and Elisabet Ingemarsson for about ten years. It's incredibly inspiring to be able to work with such a forward-looking client who sees the connection between schools and the changes in working life that are happening at the moment. Sjölunda school encapsulates what we at Kinnarps want to create with our Next Education concept."
The interior design is inspired by Reggio Emilia's idea of the room as the 'third teacher'. The environment and the furniture should work with the children and help them progress in their learning. The pupils can choose between a number of different heights – from sitting to standing – when they work. They can simply work on the floor, on traditionally designed school desks and education chairs, or standing at higher desks. The environment also offers soft seating such as easy chairs and sofas combined with different tables.
The furniture enables the children to vary their workplace and working posture, which both stimulates creativity and makes for an ergonomic school environment. Skilful teachers can quickly "read" their pupils and suggest that it's time to change position or workplace. The interior design has been done in stages, which has made it possible to involve the children and allow them to assess the solutions. But how do you measure the result? That's really easy, says principal Elisabet Ingemarsson.
"We ask the question in the form of a pupil questionnaire, and the pupils say quite clearly that they're happy here. They say they like going to school."