Classroom Strategy - Classroom Design - NextGen Spaces

Classroom Furniture Ideas for Socially Distanced Classrooms

Written by Patricia Cadigan, M.Ed., ALEP

Educational leaders across the globe are formulating plans for student learning, safety, and support under circumstances we’ve never faced before. Uncertain of how exactly to orchestrate these plans, school leaders are working tirelessly to design and set up learning environments—through the use of socially distanced classroom furniture—to best meet the needs of their students and teachers.


Classroom Furniture Ideas to Inspire a Socially Distanced Classroom Setup

At Artcobell, we receive requests daily from people, like you, needing help and support using socially distanced classroom furniture ideas to design schools that meet suggested requirements for in-person learning. As such, educators are looking for individual student desks that can be set up in rows. While this reversion to yesteryear’s classroom layouts seems like the best solution for today, how do we use this opportunity to be forward thinkers and prepare not only for today, but also maintain our vision for teaching and learning in the future?

From decades of research on student learning and engagement, we know the following to be true:

  • Active learning spaces encourage exploration, support collaborative learning, and increase student engagement. (2010, Perlman)
  • Developing students’ social and interpersonal skills through collaboration, self-awareness and mindfulness is supported in classroom environments that are flexible and adaptable.
  • Allowing students ownership in the learning environment—either through picking their own seat or giving them the sense of control of their learning—promotes student academic achievement. (2015, H.E.A.D)

Keeping this research in mind, we must see our current situation as an opportunity to plan for today without neglecting to prepare for tomorrow’s learning environment needs. We must keep in mind the question: “How can the socially distanced furniture we use now be repurposed for collaborative learning in the future?”

Through creative planning, we can use socially distanced furniture to meet the temporary needs of today while still being mindful of the future.



A Flexible Approach to Using Socially Distanced Furniture to Create An Ideal Learning Environment

Flexible and adaptable spaces are the best solutions to support learning environments now and into the future. Keep in mind, spaces that engage students are comfortable, configurable, creative and coordinate materials.  

Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your immediate and long-term needs: 

  1. What is our vision for teaching and learning today and in the future?  
  2. What will teaching and learning look like today (rows) and in the future (groups)?
  3. How do our classrooms need to function today and in the future?  


Use this helpful chart to better understand your school's classroom furniture needs:
Do we need work surfaces and seating that is temporary or permanent in the learning area?  Do we want tables or student desks for collaborative and active learning?
What is the room capacity? How do we create personalized learning environments?
How do we de-clutter classrooms for easy disinfecting? How will we continue to use technology in the classroom?
How much flexibility do we need in the classroom? Why is collaboration essential to our teaching and learning?
How much surface area do we need for student materials and technology? To meet the needs of our students, how flexible do we need our furniture to be?
How will teachers set up the space to give all students access? What type of furniture do we need to support blended learning environments? 



Classroom Furniture Ideas to Inspire Your Classroom Setup

Below are examples of published plans showing how schools are planning to create socially distanced classrooms as they begin or continue with in-person learning. Use these classroom furniture ideas as inspirational starters before you decide which socially distanced classroom furniture best supports your learning environments for the fall of 2020, and will also support the dynamic needs of your school later on.


socially-distanced-classroom-layout(2020, Basch)                                                                                        


(2020, Quinn)


Creative Ways to Repurpose Socially Distanced Classroom Furniture 

If you find yourself needing to create temporary solutions to increase learning spaces in areas such as media centers, cafeterias, or learning hallways, consider cost-effective, single-student desks that can be repurposed and used around the campus in various ways. 


(Shown: Artcobell Poly Book Box, 7SD Rectangle, Metal Book Box and 7SD Tri-Top). 



How to Get the Most Out of Single Student Desks:

Planning for social distancing but preparing for modern, flexible, and collaborative classrooms? Evaluate the different characteristics of our individual student work surfaces. Kite, Aperture, Beta, Linc, and Sail each have their special designs to support the vision you are creating for teaching and learning.  

Planning for today:


Preparing for tomorrow:


Take Advantage of Multi-Use, Configurable Classroom Furniture:

Active learning spaces require options. A blend of individual work surfaces and configurable tables provide flexibility to support a variety of teaching and learning activities. Table and desk shapes are designed to work individually or in many different combinations—just the way kids work. From conversation practice to group science experiments, there’s a combination for every activity. 

Planning for today:


Preparing for tomorrow:


Related Article: How to Establish an Active Learning Classroom


Get Creative with Various Tables Solutions:

Creating a learning environment where students have space to create and design their ideas requires large work surfaces. One of the most versatile solutions is the flip and nest tables. Artcobell offers 25”, 27” and 29” height tables that can be easily flipped and stored, or used as space dividers around the room. Expanse, Chevron, and Rectangle shaped tops provide the flexibility to create the space you need.   


Planning for today:


Preparing for tomorrow:


Classroom Furniture Ideas that Make Sense Now (Socially Distanced) and Can Be Repurposed for the Future

Here at Artcobell, we've been vision leaders creating a movement of collaborative conversion to help schools ease into transitioning their classrooms from in-line learning to flexible classrooms.

Fast forward to fall 2020, more than ever, it’s imperative that we help you create spaces that are flexible and will adapt at a moment's notice to meet the needs of students and teachers.

We'd love to help your school during this unprecedented time. Connect with one of our furniture experts and we'll help you get started. 




Barrett, Peter, et al. “Summary Report of the HEAD Project Clever Classrooms (Holistic Evidence and Design).” University of Salford Manchester, 2015. Accessed September 2019 

Basch, Michelle. “Fairfax Schools Offer Classroom Instruction Details.” INSIDENOVA.COM, 20 June 2020, Accessed 31 Aug. 2020. 

Pearlman, B. “Designing New Learning Environments to Support 21st Century Skills.” 2010 

Quinn, Andrew. “Revealed: This Is How a New School Day Will Look in NI - Classroom Layout Shows Pupils Observing One Metre Social Distancing.” www.Newsletter.Co.Uk, 19 June 2020, 31 Aug. 2020

Will, Madeline. “The Socially Distanced School Day.” Education Week, 10 June 2020,


Sep 8, 2020

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