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Lake Air student raises funds to purchase alternative classroom seating


Long gone are the traditional metal school desks lined up single file in perfect rows. Waco ISD classrooms are filled with unique learning spaces, from bean bag chairs, to carpet seating, to triangular tables for small group collaboration. Learning environments can have a direct impact on student achievement. 


Seventh graders attending Waco ISD’s Lake Air Montessori School entered teacher Eileen Kowalski’s classroom to find high top bistro tables, a couch with a chaise lounge, lacquered picnic table, yoga balls for seating, and more. They excitedly moved about the room to find their favorite spots. 


Twelve-year-old Tayeson Estelle took it upon himself to fundraise after discussion about alternative classroom furniture occurred among students. 


“I knew if lots of kids were talking about it that someone had to take action. So, I decided it would be me,” Estelle said. “With my mom’s help, we posted my project on (social media) and I did some more fundraising on my own by telling other people about the project. Pretty soon, we had about $400.”


Through the process, the middle school student learned very quickly about financial literacy and how far a dollar stretches. 


“The couch I wanted was $2,000 brand new. So, we started looking at used furniture and I found the same couch for $150. I told the seller I would give her $100 and she took it, but we had to move it ourselves,” Estelle said. “I called Mrs. K and told her I found this couch. Can we get it? She said yes. My dad brought his trailer and we loaded it up.” 


Kowalski said she was impressed with Estelle’s willingness to take ownership of the project, sharing that flexible seating allows students to quickly and easily pair up, work in small groups, or discuss as an entire class.


“The students are engaged and stay on task on their assignments,” Kowalski said. “They enjoy the flexibility of changing seating. Students have even developed their own rules and expectations, such as no food or drinks and keeping the furniture clean to ensure it is taken care of.”


Kowalski said students feel empowered by having some degree of choice and control over their environment and that the flexible seating allows them to choose where they work and with whom. It also allows them to change their location and positions as needed.


“They enjoy rotating to different seating, so it is never the same,” Kowalski said. “I have developed lesson-facing opportunities to switch to their preferred seating. They can stand at the high tables, and the couch is used as privilege seating for those who finish their lessons and want to read.”


Estelle turns on the twinkle lights and lamps that he also purchased for the room through his fundraising efforts. 


“Mrs. K had a pretty boring room,” Estelle said as he climbed on top of a leather stool that he also purchased along with curtains for the classroom. “I feel like I was able to make a change. My friends said I couldn’t do it. We proved them wrong.”