Reader Mailbox: Flexible Seating and Active Classrooms

Reader_MailboxYou’ve probably read about the benefits of allowing kids to fidget and move throughout the school day. But did you know traditional classroom seating arrangements can actually be dangerous to kids’ health?

To learn more about what research tells us about active seating, listen to ergonomist Josh Kerst as he details the health risks of sedentary classrooms in his webinar How to Boost Student Performance With Active Learning Environments and read why veteran educator Kelly Almer completely eliminated desks from her classroom in Top 3 Reasons to Use Flexible Seating in the Classroom.

Still have some lingering questions? Keep reading to see what others are asking and how our experts answered their questions. And don’t miss all of the great resources that we’ve curated on our Flexible Seating Pinterest Board and Active Furniture Idea Gallery.

  • Answer:
    Josh
    : I’d start with a class assignment on sitting disease and have them learn about the risks for discussion. I’d also have kids start standing at the beginning of the day and after lunch. Once the discussion is started, my approach is to pilot a small area within a classroom or grade and then expand it. Start with getting a few standing-height desks and arranging them in a pod of 3 or 4.

    Remember to give kids a chance to voice their opinions, guide them through proper use (the 20-8-2 concept I discussed in my presentation) and encourage them to self-regulate their needs.

    Some schools create internal projects. For example, I know of a few schools that utilized project-based learning projects at the high school level to make desk risers (using 3-D printers) for elementary classrooms. Just make sure you always involve facilities and administration so no new risks are introduced into the classroom.

  • Answer:
    Josh:
    Be respectful that kids have different needs and provide different learning neighborhoods. I usually suggest two mostly standing desks with optional perching or leaning seating available and some traditional desks or soft seating if needed. Give kids choices and lots of accessories, such as fidgeting tools, active seats or wobble boards.

Explore Flexible Seating Options

Take a virtual tour of this classroom and get ideas for creating flexible seating spaces that support the many needs and learning styles of your students.

  • Answer:
    Kelly:
    I have so much extra space now with the desks gone that furniture was easily moved to accommodate students. I have privacy screens, so we used these around each student.

    Since the students were comfortable, they were able to focus longer! I was pleasantly surprised by the motivation. We didn’t need to take stretch breaks because they were able to stretch out. Therefore, they kept on task longer.

    I had an administrator come in to check out the configuration (students helped me get creative!) to ensure we weren’t violating any rules. I also had my students open their screens, making sure they couldn’t see anyone’s work. This all worked just fine.

Authors

Josh Kerst

Josh Kerst

Principal Ergonomist at SAFCO Products

Josh is an experienced, passionate and thoughtful leader in the field of ergonomics, with an emphasis on activity-permissive designs that positively transform the way people learn and work. His design experience spans a variety of environments, including educational, manufacturing, laboratory, office and entertainment settings, as well as warehouse operations. Notable projects include his work with Swiffer WetJet, McDonald’s and Broadway musicals.

Josh holds a BSE from the University of Michigan in Industrial Engineering, and he is a Certified Professional Ergonomist (CPE), Certified Industrial Ergonomist (CIE) and a member of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association committees for office seating, lounge and public seating, and educational seating. He is also a noted speaker who has participated in the fast-paced Ignite Talks, ErgoX, Applied Ergonomics Conference and UCLA Ergo Symposiums, and more recently at the 2016 EdSpaces and 2016 Blue Ribbon Schools of Excellence conferences.

Kelly Almer

Kelly Almer

Kelly has been an educator for 30 years in Littleton Public Schools in Littleton, CO, and has taught grades 4–7. Her areas of focus include gifted and talented, technology and instructional coaching. She has presented at the Innovative Education Colorado Conference, as well as the ISTE International Conference in 2016. Kelly loves being an educator and is constantly learning and striving to improve and try new methods. Along with teaching, she is also an accomplished painter. You can follow Kelly’s blog.