By Kevin Meyer
After my recent post with my thoughts after trying a stand up desk for a year, several readers wrote in to tell me about how the same concept is being used in education. Yes, even with little kids. It turns out that standing is a great way to eliminate fidgeting, which thereby improves the learning experience. Some of the resources I was pointed to include this article in The New York Times.
Unlike children almost everywhere, those in Ms. Brown’s class do not
have to sit and be still. Quite the contrary, they may stand and fidget
all class long if they want. And they do.
The children in Ms. Brown’s class, and in some others at Marine
Elementary School and additional schools nearby, are using a type of
adjustable-height school desk, allowing pupils to stand while they
work, that Ms. Brown designed with the help of a local ergonomic
furniture company two years ago. The stand-up desk’s popularity with
children and teachers spread by word of mouth from this small town to
schools in Wisconsin, across the St. Croix River. Now orders for the
desks are being filled for districts from North Carolina to California.
With multiple classrooms filled with stand-up desks, Marine
Elementary finds itself at the leading edge of an idea that experts say
continues to gain momentum in education: that furniture should be
considered as seriously as instruction, particularly given the rise in
childhood obesity and the decline in physical education and recess.
Dr. James A. Levine, a professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic, advocates what he calls “activity-permissive” classrooms, including stand-up desks.
So standing up not only improves focus and learning, it can help decrease obesity. That could help more than just kids. Studies to obtain quantitative data are in progress.
Researchers should soon know whether they can confirm those
calorie-burning and scholastic benefits. Two studies under way at the University of Minnesota are using data collected from Ms. Brown’s classroom and others in
Minnesota and Wisconsin that are using the new desks. The pupils being
studied are monitored while using traditional desks as well, and the
researchers are looking for differences in physical activity and
“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. I think it’s just a matter of breaking the mold.”
The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel had a similar article.
Fifth-grade reading teacher Pam Seekel thinks maybe she did kids a
disservice over the years when she told them to sit still, to quit
fidgeting so they could focus.
a teacher, I never sit down,” said Seekel, who works in the School
District of Somerset, near the Minnesota border. “I started to think:
Why should I make the kids sit down?”
year, many of Seekel’s students are using new, adjustable-height
stand-up desks produced by a Wisconsin company, as well as a big, tall
table that lets students work in groups while standing and shifting
their weight, leaning, stretching, wiggling and generally doing
everything but sitting still.
Even in kindergarten.
Since then, one kindergarten class even has them — at times when the
students would normally be seated at desk chairs, Hamborg said, you can
see pint-sized kids sitting on pint-sized balls, many of them slightly
but continuously bobbing up and down.
Demand is kicking up.
Stand-up desks in the workplace have been a niche industry for years,
but Skiba said that many companies like Sunway are suddenly starting to
get a lot more requests for them. Former Wisconsin Sen. William
Proxmire was known for using a stand-up desk, and the new dean of
Marquette University Law School, Joseph Kearney, has a mahogany
stand-up workstation on order for his university office.
There are even a couple of YouTube videos describing their use in the classroom.
Although this next one is in German and shows an interesting accessory.
So what can this teach those of us in the adult world? Learning is important to any organization. Should training be done sitting down at a conference table or behind rows of desks in a training room? Or standing up?
You gotta have that fatigue mat to go with the stand up desks. It’s a must.
Why is it so important to quantify the benefits? Sometimes you have to do something because you know it’s right. Every kaizen should be based on a hypothesis and should be an experiment. If they can’t quantify a certain percentage increase in benefits (much like many senior managers have to have “proof” beforehand of the absolute dollar and cent benefit of an improvement project) are they going to cancel the program?
And not everybody is suited for these stand up desks, either. They should not demand conformity–explicitly or implicitly. If some kids want to sit and “be still” they should be allowed to because they will learn better if they are comfortable.
Dan Markovitz says
How long till manufacture of the desks follows American furniture makers and is outsourced to China?