Researchers at the University of Minnesota may provide scientific evidence to help provide some justification to finally unbolt kids from their chairs in classrooms! The teacher's union leader thinks its a fad! Please!
A report from the NY TIMES in February describes a school, Marine Elementary School in Marine On St. Croix, Minnesota, as a test site for "Activity-permissive" classrooms. Dr. James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, advocates what he calls “activity-permissive” classrooms, including stand-up desks. “Having many children sit in a classroom isn’t the craziest idea, but look at how children have changed,” Dr. Levine said of the sedentary lives of many. “We also have to change, to meet their needs.”
Teachers in Minnesota and Wisconsin say they know from experience that the desks help give children the flexibility they need to expend energy and, at the same time, focus better on their work rather than focusing on how to keep still.
The students being studied are monitored while using traditional desks as well, as the researchers aim to look for differences in physical activity and academic achievement.“We can’t say for sure that this has an impact on those two things, but we’re hypothesizing that they may,” said Beth A. Lewis of the School of Kinesiology, or movement science, at the University of Minnesota. “I think we’re so used to the traditional classroom it’s taken a while for people to start thinking outside the box."
While adult-size workstations that allow for standing are commonplace, options for young students are not, and until now, data on the educational effect of movement in the classroom have been scant. But at Marine Elementary, the principal, Lynn Bormann, feels as if she need not wait for the research results. “We just know movement is good for kids,” Ms. Bormann said. “We can measure referrals to the office and sick days. Teachers are seeing positive things."
Marine Elementary lies in a small, fitness-minded, high-achieving school district where experimentation is encouraged. Ms. Bormann bought the desks with money from several grants awarded to the school, which is now in its second full year of using them.Ms. Brown says she got the idea for the stand-up desks after 20 years of teaching in which she watched children struggle to contain themselves at small hard desks, and after reading some of Dr. Levine’s work. “As an option,” she said, “it gives students choices, and they feel empowered. It’s not anything to force on anybody. Teachers have to do what fits their comfort level. But this makes sense to me.”
At Somerset Middle School in nearby Somerset, Wis., the children in Pam Seekel’s fifth-grade class rotate in their use of both traditional and stand-up desks. “At a stand-up desk,” Ms. Seekel said, “I’ve never seen students with their heads down, ever. It helps with being awake, if they can stand, it seems. And for me as a teacher, I can stand at their level to help them. I’m not bent over. I can’t think of one reason why a classroom teacher wouldn’t want these.”
Here is this official product site for Stand Up for Learning desks.
There is much much more to learn about furniture in this regard. The idea of movement in both children and adults is well documented....I recommend the book by Galen Kranz entitled The Chair: Rethinking Body, Culture and Design.
Now that we have a few researchers and educators thinking about the value of movement (any one remember Gardner's explication of kinesthetic intelligence?) maybe we can allow them to get out of these boxes into the daylight and into breakout learning areas so they can express other intelligences not allowed expression by the present educational system!