Sandra Turner / Rochester Institute of Technology
Fidget: natural system of movement
Fidget: natural system of movement
Instead of a more traditional table or chair, I like the idea of using this in different ways, especially for children of kindergarten age. – Defne Koz
Fidget: natural system of movement
Inspiring a natural system in the classroom to allow for greater physical movement for students and flexibility for teachers to create an environment that transforms with changing needs is the main goal of this project.
The emerging product design, fidget, is a modular object with many possibilities; it is a chair, a stool, a desk, and by connecting together, it forms an extended surface. It is just one proposed solution that embraces and celebrates this critical and dynamic dialogue in classroom design.2. The Brief: Summarize the problem you set out to solve. What was the context for the project, and what was the challenge posed to you?
Finding the balance between the needs of control and natural movement in the classroom to allow freedom in learning, growth and change is a critical design element of this project. Ann Holder discusses in the article, Furniture for Schools, a need for incorporating the furniture and objects in the classroom into “learning furniture” and to look at what students “sit on, work at, eat at, put their belongings in, find things in, and see their work displayed in that is the key … this is true both at the scale of the individual pupil, and in terms of the spatial arrangements and combinations of furniture for different group sizes and uses.”
One of the main goals of the design was to provide teachers and students with a simple system to move from group to individual activities. Through my observations and research, I found that kids just want to move and teachers need flexibility. Incorporating these two elements while maintaining balance of control and freedom of movement became the greatest challenge of the design process.3. The Intent: What point of view did you bring to the project, and were there additional criteria that you added to the brief?
As a student, I remember feeling confined, trapped and limited. I had so many ideas, questions, and my imagination was wild, yet I was told to “sit down, be quiet and not to move.” This conflict between natural needs and the demand for control in the classroom was like a tug-a-war inside of my soul. I remember being very distracted, frustrated and, what teachers called back then, a “satisfactory & fidgety” student. Who wants to be “satisfactory?” I wanted to be great, express myself and share my ideas and imagination; I instinctively needed to be creative, but the classroom demands took precedence over mine. I felt like I was different because my body needed to naturally move. And still today, this same experience continues in classrooms. It is like time has stood still in the classroom. There are new textbooks, teaching techniques, paint on the walls, and blinds; but yet, it’s still the same.
Reflecting on this time of my life, and the passion I felt for bringing the feeling of nature indoors led me to explore the definition of the “feeling of nature.” I explored the natural movement systems outdoors and the possibilities of having the same feeling in the classroom. Could the classroom objects take on a “life” that inspired natural movement as we find in nature; like the child digging in the ground searching for new possibilities?4. The Process: Describe the rigor that informed your project. (Research, ethnography, subject matter experts, materials exploration, technology, iteration, testing, etc., as applicable.) What stakeholder interests did you consider? (Audience, business, organization, labor, manufacturing, distribution, etc., as applicable)
As I explored the classroom studies and research, I knew that it was critical to be in the environment with the teacher and students. I was reading the Rochester Health magazine and came across an article about a grant given to School #34 in the City of Rochester for alternative furniture to help with movement in the classroom. How exciting to read about a school that shared my same interest! Ironically, School #34 is where I spent my childhood from kindergarten – 6th grade! Is it a coincidence that my thesis research took me back to my elementary school or is it really just the circle of finding oneself again?
Since leaving the school in the 6th grade, I have not been back in the building. As I entered the school on the first meeting with the Principal, the smell immediately made my insides start to move around, as if my soul was remembering. It was a pleasant and safe smell, but it also brought back some feelings that were not so pleasant given that my childhood outside of school during this time of my life was very chaotic. After an inspiring meeting with the principal, I slowly walked around the school and tried to place myself back in the school, as a child, so full of wonder and awe, always wanting to explore.
After our first meetings, I started observing classrooms from kindergarten – 6th grade at the school. In addition to School #34, I observed classrooms at an elementary charter school in the city, and a suburban middle school in Webster, NY. I found the teachers inviting and interested in my thesis topic, especially how to provide children with a way to move without too much disruption in class, finding that balance between control and nature.
I conducted a teacher survey with the following results:
26 responses / Pre-K – 7th grade
73% use a combination of desks and tables for writing surface
30% stated that students sit at the desk ALL at the same time only 40 – 50% of the day
73% of teachers have students sit on the floor
Summary of teacher & student needs
1. create more space for group and individual projects
2. ability to connect surfaces together to go from individual to groups
3. allow increased movement of student’s body
4. floor is dirty and children don’t have anything to write on
5. not enough space for workstations
Exploring how design can engage the student and teacher to form a mutual respectful relationship built on trust continues to be an exciting challenge. It is a critical problem in our society with graduation rates continuing to decline in many US cities along with the change in the traditional linear type educational process. The fidget provides the balance between the perceived necessity for control in the classroom and the natural need to move. Rotational molding not only provides durability, uniform wall thickness and a tough surface, but it is also more cost effective than current classroom designs providing less risk for school systems to incorporate the design into classroom budgets.
I believe that the fidget design is a step in making positive change by providing an inviting and functional element to the classroom that inspires natural movement for students and teachers. By creating a natural system of movement, the classroom environment takes on a life that changes based on emotional, physical and educational needs.
Design intent accomplished:
Designed a modular system that inspires natural movement.
Provides children with an object that is fun yet functional with many possibilities.
Helps children to feel “safe” to be free and explore.
Reduces feeling of confinement.
Inspires children & teachers to build their own environment based on individual and group changing needs.
Fidget design is intuitive, inviting, simple and flexible