Cool Flex: McKendree's Flexible Seating Room is a True Gift for Campus Community

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Visit the bustling halls of the Piper Academic Center on campus and you’ll encounter similar setups of the classrooms within: long tables dotted with black chairs or desks perfectly lined facing Smart Boards at the head of the room. As you wander down the first floor, peer into room number 114 and you’ll see something a little different.

The classroom feels a little like walking into a middle school classroom. The bulletin boards are adorned with positive words and affirmations with characters from Disney’s Inside Out. Along with the normal chairs that accompany the tables, various seating options grace the room: yoga balls, wobble chairs, tractor seats, wobble cushions, and fidget foot bands.

This is what’s called a flexible seating classroom.


One Donation Can Make a Dream a Reality

The seating options, which were made possible by a gift from a donor, are meant not only to simulate a classroom that McKendree’s future educators might encounter, but they are also meant to benefit the students themselves as they learn in the classroom.

“When we learned about this gift, we had several ideas on how to use it, but Dr. Darryn Diuguid suggested making a flexible seating classroom that would model, to some degree, the type of flexible seating that happens in K-12 classrooms,” said Dr. Michael Downton, assistant professor of education and chair of the School of Education at McKendree University. “We all loved the idea!”

Dr. Diuguid, who is a professor of education at McKendree, took on the task of planning and purchasing needed items for the classroom. He also asked his former students what was popular in their elementary and middle school classrooms.

“I taught second grade in the era before flexible seating was even thought of, but it’s widely popular now. My philosophy is that students come in all different shapes and sizes, so why should chairs or seating options fit just one body type? Plus, some students like to move while seated, and some, much like myself, like to stand,” Dr. Diuguid said. “For years, we’ve discussed flexible seating in the K-12 classroom, and I thought it was time to bring it to McKendree.”


Flexibility Makes Learning Easier for All

Seating-wise, students can choose their regular chairs or choose to use padded seats, roll-around chairs, wobble chairs, and giant balance balls.

“These types of seats encourage movement and allow students who don’t like to sit still the ability to move around while learning,” Dr. Downton said.

It isn’t unusual for students taking classes in PAC 114 to sate their curiosity by testing out each seating option. They also frequently choose to focus (or calm) their minds by toying with a small object in their hands, the muffled clinks and softened pops echoing gently like raindrops.

“In class, I have days where students rotate throughout the seating to make sure they tried every option. The most popular option is the yoga balls. Many students choose that option every single day,” Dr. Diuguid said. “The students and I will usually pass around the container of focus tools for anyone who’d like to fidget with their hands.”

In addition to the seating options, students also have at their disposal focus tools such as liquid timers, spinners, bubble poppers, and stress balls, fidget bands for chairs, meditation and mindfulness QR codes, and an appreciation wall on which students can write what they are grateful for. A rainbow of sticky notes brightens the walls with words of gratitude and smiley faces scrawled upon them.

Dr. Downton hopes that the flexible seating options won’t stop beyond PAC 114, but that it can also expand all over the university.

“It would be great to see a full-scale flexible seating environment,” he said. “I’ve heard nothing but good things from our students and faculty about this room!”


You, Too, Can Help Our Future Educators

Oftentimes, educators will fund their flexible seating classrooms through crowdsourcing options like Donors Choose. Dr. Diuguid has even supported several former students in helping them achieve a more flexible and adaptable classroom environment.

“The McKendree School of Education’s goal is to prepare our future teachers for real-world scenarios, and flexible seating fits this to a T,” he said. “What better way for them to use it in the university classroom to see what may work in their future classrooms?”

There are several ways you can make a difference for the future educators in your life, whether they’re current Bearcats or not.

“My recommendation is to ask family and friends for gently-used furniture such as high-top tables and chairs, bean bags, and stools. That’s a start to great things!” Dr. Diuguid said.

To learn more, please email Dr. Diuguid at