Free Range Seating — or Flexible Learning Environments

Free Range Seating — or Flexible Learning Environments

Rufus E. Miles Jr. (1910-1996), said where we stand depends on where we sit, meaning that when we change organizational positions we change perspectives. That’s known as Miles’ Law, and it certainly applies to those of us who have been both teachers and students, but for today’s blog I’m going to tweak it a little and suggest that both where and how we sit — and stand and move about — all have impacts, on both health and life perspectives. How and where we sit has an impact on how long we can stand it. That’s Tod’s Law (1953 – ) This is not quite about free range schooling, but it’s at least a step in the right direction – like giving chickens more room to spread their wings.

A whole lot of schools over the past century bought the concept of cells and bells, an assembly-line, industrial inspired arrangement of bleak hallways, metal lockers, square rooms, matching desks, uncomfortable chairs…you’ve all been there. On some level, enough of us bought into this to allow this model to molder, or atrophy, for quite a few decades. The time has come to move on.

Fortunately there are more than a few shining examples of how to do this, with school design features re-imagined, making classrooms simultaneously more humane and more effective, especially in terms of classroom layout and chair design.

Interactive learning has come into its own over the past few years, with more and more schools catching on to the fact that students working cooperatively to solve problems is a good idea, but there’s been a lag time while it dawned on students, teachers, principals, school purchasing agents and furniture designers that some commensurate design changes would be worthwhile.


Anything we can do to provide room to breathe, squirm, and interact is worth serious consideration. Consider the following basic, common-sense tips on layout (at zero cost, I must point out) from school teacher Amy Spies:

Or, if you have money in the budget for chairs, consider slightly more daring changes drawing on interesting chair designs:

Both of these are relatively modest improvements– mere preludes to the big changes that are possible. We can take this kind of thinking a big step further by looking at not where we sit, but where we walk, play, and spread our wings a little. Hallways morphing into flexible work spaces are becoming more common, for example, and the integration of natural features into otherwise sterile environments.


Here’s a magnificent example of a comprehensive kindergarten design, offering a safely contained rooftop playground/hallway/racetrack that blew me away, which I first came upon posted at Upworthy:

Tod Schneider
Written by Tod Schneider

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