The story behind… The Heppell Bench

The Heppell Bench concept has been in development for nearly a decade. Designer James Clarke of Learniture wanted to design a multifunctional piece of furniture that created a range of different learning opportunities at a single, simple stroke.

Professor Stephen Heppell, whose daughter, Juliette is one of Learniture’s co-founders, had the idea of a table that that could work at standing or sitting height by rotating it. James had also seen pictures of the mobile, multi-level risers that teacher Greg Miyanaga had made for his students in British Columbia to stand at or sit on.

The inspiration

All of these ideas for the Heppell Bench were inspired by seeing how students like to work in a variety of body positions: sitting, standing, lying down or kneeling. Children have an innate need to move around and they learn better when they are freed from the constraints of a desk and chair. For teachers, having an environment that enables different learning styles, where students can collaborate and gather easily, presents exciting new opportunities.

The product

Learniture developed the concept and integrated our product design expertise to create the Heppell Bench. It consists of four benches; two low, one mid and one tall, that nest together. It’s up to you (and your students) how you deploy them but they can be used:

  • together as tiered seating, which is ideal when you want to gather the class together for instruction or discussion,
  • as a large table for collaborative tasks with the sitting height benches on either side,
  • as a standing height table for exploratory work.

On the Heppell Bench every horizontal surface is a dry-wipe LearningSurface writable work surface and every horizontal surface is a seat.

The opportunities for teachers and learners

With just this one product you can introduce agility, a choice of how and where to work, writable surfaces and create a zone for gathering, collaborating or exploring, depending on how you configure your benches. You could try removing some of your desks, replacing them with a Heppell Bench to free up space and to enable greater agility. Removing desks (as Greg did) is optional, but introducing the Heppell Bench is a great first step towards creating a next-generation learning environment.