Common areas in 21st century schools are areas that exist in all buildings. However they have not been considered as areas for learning until now. They can be as different as the school buildings in which they are located; from corridors to staircases, landings or hallways. What was once unused space is now being used in innovative ways.
Common areas, properly equipped with mobile furniture and technological functionality, are designed to facilitate learning anytime, anywhere.
How did the change in perception of common areas come about?
Today’s common areas are the result of advances in education. Embracing the idea that learning involves more than facts and figures, educators are looking for ways to bring 21st century practices to all aspects of their schools, including unused or underutilised spaces. The idea is to make the whole school a space for learning, to foster collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving wherever students are. As educational concepts such as flexible learning and project-based learning take shape in schools, educators are seeing the benefits of having a variety of spaces where socialising, discussion or even concentration can take place.
In addition, making use of unused space makes logistical sense. A US architectural firm called Arrowstreet points out that “more than 35% of the square footage of an average school is used less than 5% of the typical school day”. By utilising as much space as possible, schools can do more with less, reducing the need for costly extensions or large square footage.
How do common areas benefit learners?
Collaboration is both a goal and an outcome of common spaces; even the word “common” has its origins in sharing and being together. And as EdTech Magazine explains, “the benefits of collaborative learning have been clear for nearly 30 years: the National Education Association cites research from 1989 showing that cooperation leads to higher performance and productivity and a range of social benefits. But technology, for all its advantages, can sometimes have an isolating effect. By making collaboration the default mode of learning, schools can activate the advantages of both”.
Being comfortable in collaborative environments and the ability to work well with others are increasingly valuable skills in the real world. By fostering them wherever possible, schools prepare students for future success.
Furnishings for common areas in schools
Passageways, corridors, landings between floors and hallways are spaces that, when well furnished, can become areas for sharing, life, knowledge and nurturing learning.
At Mirplay School we have developed several designs aimed at making these areas more useful and comfortable, here some examples:
Acoustic booths AURE.