Article Current Trends in K-12 Education

The world of education is changing at an ever-increasing rate, with no signs of slowing down. Technology, generational influences, and industry research are constantly driving new trends that manifest in building and design decisions, as well as the approach to teaching the next generation of the workforce.

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Armstrong Flooring partnered with research firm WGSN to identify how and why trends are changing in education. Here are four trends impacting K-12 education design. To see how these trends are influencing higher education, read our article here.

Prioritizing Health & Wellness

Research clearly shows the benefit of biophilic design, which is the practice of incorporating nature into interior design. Being implemented widely across the education spectrum, schools are prioritizing natural light and access to the outdoors, like secure courtyards and garage doors in exterior rooms.

Further connecting the staff and students to the outdoors, programs and areas for schools to grow their own food are coming to fruition. This movement contributes to the school in several ways: providing organic, healthy foods for consumption during school lunches, implementing farming and gardening into the curriculum, and contributing to wellness.

All-inclusive design is a growing trend in schools as well, focusing on design that recognizes diversity and uniqueness. This moves beyond ADA requirements, and focuses on areas like designing for color blindness. Read more about how an elementary school used unique wayfinding design to account for colorblind staff and students.

Designing for the Next Stage

The approach to prepare students for the future is moving beyond just curriculum, and immersing students in what could be their future environments. A growing trend is seeing grade schools design facilities and campuses to mimic higher education. Traditional desk and chair setups are being replaced in some instances by chairs with wheels and modular furniture that can be strategically moved, to simulate higher education and work environments. This also fosters collaborative work, a vital skill as children develop.

Design of entire buildings and campuses are beginning to look more like college as well. See how an elementary school specializing in STEM disciplines designed the building with courtyards on the interior of the building. Like a college campus, this allows for students to study, work, interact, and be creative outside of the classroom.

Ever-Developing Technology

In the 21st Century, trends in technology change so quickly it can be hard to keep up. Every 12 months, the information available to us doubles in amount —that’s a lot to keep up with. In the education space, balancing tried-and-true methods with up-and-coming technologies is key, while managing technology as a resource versus trying to fight against it.

Slowly fading away are the classic “Snow Days,” where school was canceled due to inclement weather. Technology has led to remote learning days, as students can accomplish many of the same assignments from home. Media Centers and iPads for every student is the norm, and designing for these spaces needs to remain flexible enough to incorporate and adjust to ever-changing technology.

One elementary school made a Media Center the core of its building while devoting curriculum to learning STEM disciplines. This type of innovation and priority on technology is becoming the new norm, but may exacerbate the need for digital wellness.

Creating Flexible Spaces

Whether out of necessity or just for efficiency purposes, the intentional design of flexible spaces is on the rise. Having areas that serve as hubs for students to collaborate or problem solve is proving to be an important space in grade schools. With a trend of educators transitioning to guides who lead students to problem solve, it’s imperative to have spaces that are flexible enough to accommodate shifting educational philosophies. Furthermore, many school districts operate on tight budgets, and the need for flexibility within a given space — to shift from seated learning to active collaboration, for example — cannot always rely on separate spaces for separate needs. Simply put, learning spaces today need to be able to do, and provide, more.

See how one elementary school used an open area and defined space by design, without the use of physical walls or barriers to effectively define a space.