Last week I had the pleasure to be hosted at "Steelcase University" in Grand Rapids, Michigan for a day of learning with their thought-leaders and researchers. The trip itself was with some of my lovely DLR Group coworkers to expose us to the front-lines of interior design research on the use of educational spaces. Steelcase is also a partner in the Innovative Learning Environments + Teacher Change study I’ll be working on next year. A productive trip indeed!


1. Professional development focused on the potential use of furniture is sorely needed if its integration into space is to have a real impact on the trajectory of education. This was discussed with almost every expert of the day and reflects why they are partners in the ILE+TC study.

2. ARC – Applied Research Consulting is one way Steelcase already accomplishes this development. Best nugget from this is the idea of doing work for free and then receiving payment over time if and only if, the design or service remains beneficial and functional. If it’s not, then see this as an opportunity to learn and improve.

3. Research integration into practice is difficult to achieve initially but once it is, it can be integral to the DNA of a company. It is so deep in the core of Steelcase in that they are unable to articulate specific returns on investment or how they measure its success. They simply know that it is the reason they are successful. It is why they say that the manufacturing of furniture is simply a byproduct of their desire to improve the world of work and education and their other burgeoning sectors.


Steelcase had our group transition every 50 minutes or so into a different learning environment. This is obviously to allow clients to experience a variety of their furniture but also provides a firsthand experience of the activities various learning environments are best at supporting.

Here's a run down of the types of learning spaces we were in and what activities they are most conducive to supporting.

1. Learn Labs are best apt for lessons with high-levels of interactive technology use.

2. Classrooms outfitted with node chairs are best for allowing ease of movement from independent work to small groups to large group.

3. The tiered tables allow for a more traditional setting without taking away the ability to change the space over time.

4. Small group independent desks are mobile and encourage collaboration while still supporting more traditional instruction.

5. Mobile tables connected to power provide balance between the analog and digital.This is set up initially for groups of four and is one of the more popular set-ups in existing K-12 facilities as group work is commonly seen as beneficial (but oh how much farther we can go!)

#steelcase #research #organizationalalignment

Check out this video about the research I'll be joining next year. While this highlights the issues from the Australian lens, schools throughout the United States also struggle to help teachers transition to teaching in innovative spaces. Often, new spaces are designed and teachers just move in with little to no guidance of the potential these new spaces afford.

What experiences have you had in innovative learning spaces? How was the transition?


This may upset people and I have not been able to confirm the story through extensive (albeit 5 minutes of...) googling but here's another reason to love a dachshund.

While in Munich, we took my father-in-law on a tour of Weihenstephaner brewery and our charming tour guide and recent graduate of Weihenstephan-Triesdorf University of Applied Sciences (In his words, the "Harvard of Brewing." Yes, they have a degree in Brewing Science. It's engineering and science and it's hard stuff. We asked. You can apply here) gave us many insights about the history of brewing in Germany. If you didn't know, Weihenstephaner is the oldest brewery still in operation in the world. Their beer is delicious and I recommend you go drink some right now.

Here's the scoop - lots of carbon dioxide is released during the brewing process as fermentation begins. With the amount of beer brewed in a large operation, you shouldn't even enter in to the fermentation room until the CO2 has burned off. However, back in the day they did not have the technology we have today to measure the levels in the air and had to get creative. CO2 is denser than air and thus, will be more prevalent closer to the ground in a confined space.

Dachshunds are notoriously short dogs and they are light, making them easy to carry...or pull. These two traits make them excellent candidates for the brewery's version of the canary in the coal mine: CO2 detector. Story is they would put the little guys on a leash and send them through a doggy door into the fermentation room. If they keep moving for a bit it's likely the CO2 levels are low enough for people to enter. If the dog passes out, the levels are still too high and they simply pull the pup back through the doggy door after which they completely recover and are well-fed from all the good beer they were able to lick up along the way. They were doggy explorers. They were heroes. Thank you weiner-pups.

I wonder if this history is why weiner-dog races often accompany Oktoberfests around the world. Are they running from their perilous occupation? Or is it just because they look like little sausages? If someone knows the real story here, please do share.

#beer #tours #history

About Me

My name is Raechel (with an "e"). I help design schools for a living and travel whenever I can (well - used to and pining to start that again!). I started this website as I combined these two favorite things in Melbourne, Australia as a Post-Graduate Fulbright Scholar. I am continuing it now after finishing a PhD in Education and still designing schools. I will chronicle research and schools I love, sharing the exciting things happening and providing lessons learned from my research on how to align your practices and your spaces to achieve your teaching and learning goals.


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