Creating inclusive learning environments with thoughtful furniture

At Vestre, we believe everyone should have access to good design, not just a small group of people who have the resources to pay for it. That's why we really enjoy furnishing public spaces such as schoolyards. Scandinavian countries support community use of school facilities outside of regular hours, echoing the principle of “allemannsretten”, or the "right to roam". Having furnished thousands of schools across the globe, we've gained some insights into how to create better learning environments for students. We would like to share some of the lessons we've learned along the way. We hope you will find them useful.

Bringing communities together

Schoolyards are vital social hubs and one the most important social meeting places there are. We believe they can make the biggest difference—not just for the children but for entire communities. In Norway and Scandinavia, schools often double as community hubs where people of all ages gather during and after school hours. It’s kind of like the neighborhood park.

In areas with considerable socio-economic variation, outdoor areas, especially school grounds, are vital for bringing communities together. They offer safe spots for students and locals to gather, express themselves, and build connections. Well-designed and inclusive furniture is key to making these spaces welcoming, functional, and nurturing.

Vestre offers a wide range of furniture solutions tailored to educational settings, catering to various age groups and activities, from learning and play to socializing – or just being.

Tailored solutions and learning-enhancing colors

Younger students love fun furniture they can climb or play on, like round or curved shapes. It lets them explore, push their boundaries, and be imaginative in a dynamic setting. Older students prefer furniture that feels more mature, like taller options such as bar-style setups. They also appreciate a mix of spaces for socializing and collaboration, as well as spots for some individual study or alone time.

Just as important as the furniture are the colors. Color plays an important role in student well-being and learning outcomes. Studies have found that some colors, like white, green, and blue, evoke feelings of curiosity and satisfaction among students. While more reserved colors like gray and black had the opposite effect, making some students feel worried and uneasy.

Vestre furniture can be adapted to suit any surroundings and comes in any color imaginable. Every single item of urban furniture can be made unique, complementing its surroundings. The furniture can easily be tailored to different concepts or the school's identity—adding playfulness, enhancing aesthetics, and adding functionality.

The homes of insects, bees, and birds—and an outdoor classroom

Another key take-away, is the need for and importance of moving the classroom outdoors.

According to several studies on outdoor classrooms, this can benefit students in multiple ways:

  1. Hands-on learning: It helps students to learn by doing and strengthens the link between theory and practice.
  2. Engagement: Learning outdoors can be more interesting and engaging.
  3. Mental health: Being outdoors can reduce stress and anxiety, especially important as many students are feeling more stressed nowadays.
  4. Interacting with nature: Spending time in nature can be mood lifting and improve mental well-being.
  5. Environmental awareness: Direct experience with nature can make students more aware of environmental issues and their responsibility to protect the environment, crucial for promoting sustainability and environmental protection.

Our furniture series ‘Vestre Habitats’ can play a crucial role in schools’ educational provision by serving as living outdoor textbooks. The series is designed to preserve and increase biodiversity in urban areas, providing a safe home for insects, bees, and birds. It has been developed in partnership with biologists and has been tested and optimized to meet the needs of the various species.

By using Vestre Habitats as examples, students learn about various plants and insects, their life cycles, and how they interact with each other and the environment. Habitats can be used to promote outdoor learning and physical activity, both of which are crucial to students' physical and mental health.