Story at a glance:
- Jonti-Craft classroom furniture products are GREENGUARD Gold–certified.
- Many Jonti-Craft products have multiple uses, too.
- A free design service can help customers design and arrange spaces.
Furniture and classroom design can play a big role in a child’s ability to learn. Multiple studies (one from the University of Salford in England) show that classroom furniture and design can impact learning up to 25%. Add to that concerns over spreading illness, and there is a lot to consider when designing a healthy classroom.
For children’s educational furniture manufacturer Jonti-Craft, meeting pandemic demands has been relatively easy. That’s because the company has been in the business of designing healthy classrooms—and exceeding industry standards—for more than 40 years. “In children’s furniture, you really need to cross your t’s and dot your i’s. Jonti-Craft has been doing that since the beginning, which is well before my time,” says Matt Hinkle, national sales manager.
Jonti-Craft’s unmatched durability, quality, flexibility, and reasonable price has kept classroom designer Susan Pinckney of TSKP Studio coming back for more than a decade. “Their products are durable, easy to keep clean, and the teachers love them,” she says. “Where other manufacturers tend to limit themselves, Jonti-Craft doesn’t. They have a really broad selection. You know everything will work together, coordinate, and last.”
The company started when Don and Cathy Schwarz purchased Rapid Sash and Millwork, a manufacturer of wooden toys where Don himself had interned in Minnesota in 1979. The couple saw the opportunity to apply the same strict standards and hard work used to create toys to deliver safe, quality children’s furniture to last a lifetime of learning—even if that meant surviving a pandemic.
All of Jonti-Craft’s products have rounded corners and edges. “Kids are still working on coordination so we don’t want sharp corners and edges where students can fall and hurt themselves,” Hinkle says.
The company follows strict stability and safety standards to ensure furniture will not tip over if installed correctly. “Kids will climb and stand on things and we need to make sure our furniture is stable enough to handle them and reduce the risk of injury,” Hinkle says. All cabinet doors have piano hinges, removing the opportunity for pinched fingers.
Jonti-Craft products are GREENGUARD Gold–certified, a standard the company met before it even existed. “We went through the testing the first time and didn’t have to make a single change. We have always been prioritizing children’s safety in the materials we are using,” Hinkle says.
Clean & Separated
Portable sinks bring handwashing into the classroom and other spaces without additional plumbing. The sinks have gained popularity since the pandemic and are now offered in 10 variations—including touchless, electric, non-electric, heated, and non-heated. “We feel washing hands is really the safest way to remove germs. These sinks can be added to spaces where hand sanitizers would not sufficient,” Hinkle says. The company also offers sanitation carts so hand sanitizer, gloves, and cleaners can easily be moved to wherever needed.
Student separation has become a big factor in designing a healthy school, too. Divider shields—a different take on the plexiglass module panel system Jonti-Craft already produced—allow schools the ability to separate students where space is limited. The company recently developed shields specifically to be used on activity tables in early-education classrooms. “Not every school can retrofit or replace the furniture they have, so we made a version that is easy to add on. We want things to be as cost-effective as possible,” Hinkle says.
Separation of supplies and take-home items is also important. Jonti-Craft offers not only shared storage options but also solutions that give each student their own storage bin.
Next to safety, comfort is a top priority when designing a healthy classroom. “Making sure it is optimal in helping them to focus on learning,” Hinkle says. “If it is built right it can really positively impact student learning.” The classroom should be appropriate for the age of children using it, he adds. That means items like chairs and tables should be at the correct height.
Overstimulation is another factor to consider. In the 1980s most children’s educational furniture was designed to have bright, bold primary colors. Jonti-Craft’s furniture pieces are designed in natural tones. “Our belief is: Let the kids’ artwork be the show of the classroom, and let the furniture blend into the room,” Hinkle says. Clutter can also be overstimulating, which is why Jonti-Craft’s storage units are quick and easy to access.
Every inch of space matters in today’s pandemic classroom. Jonti-Craft’s furniture is stable yet easy to move around, with most items featuring casters. The furniture gives teachers the flexibility to separate spaces and students. Quiet reading areas can be separated from active play areas.
Many products are multi-use, too. Desks can be nested together for a group activity and come apart quickly. “Our multi-use solutions maximize return, so there is no wasted space,” Hinkle says.
Items like the Activity Tables with dry erase tops allow students to write on the table. “They have the whole table as a canvas,” Hinkle says. Optional back options on storage units, like dry erase or magnetic surfaces, provide teachers with additional instructional surfaces, while a plexiglass back option allows for better line-of-sight.
Jonti-Craft’s free design service can also help customers design and arrange educational spaces, factoring in space and age restrictions, activity needs, and curriculum requirements to create rooms that make students feel comfortable, confident, and free to learn.