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Using Furniture To Stand Up For Learning
By: Carrie Eidem

Revolutionary ideas on movement in the classroom are fueling new concepts on old traditions. While the future of the classroom might not look like a scene from the Jetson's, the adage of sitting still to learn is being replaced by students who are encouraged to move, fidget, and stand while performing their school tasks.

According to one sixth-grade teacher of departmentalized classes, "We need to rethink the way kids are expected to learn because education continues to change. State standards and the changing global society we live in today have impacted the rigor of what students are expected to learn in the classroom. My sixth graders are learning about chemistry and physics, algebra and probability, and other topics that were once taught at the high school level. However, children's physical development has not changed. An 11-year-old is still growing and needs to be allowed physical movement just as much today as he/she did many years ago. Stand-up tables allow for movement, encourage healthy posture, and can be fit to the varying sizes of children."

Taking a Stand
The concept of standing up for learning focuses on students' interaction with their classroom environment and how standing and movement can help them stay focused on their tasks, whether it's homework, tests, or group projects.

But it goes beyond focus to encompass health, academics, and possible benefits for students with ADHD. These core areas show how standing is more ergonomic, expends excess energy, allows better oxygen flow and the larger potential for aiding to prevent childhood obesity and improving academics.

While the greater health benefits are still being studied, the effects on focus and improved grades are almost immediate. Studies show a direct connection between learning and movement, and that children who are allowed to move have better test scores and retain information easier.

These studies show that children naturally move, or fidget, and standing helps them to do this while aiding in classroom focus. With these benefits, standing up for learning has potential for students who have trouble focusing, such as those diagnosed with ADHD.

From the Office to the Classroom
While adults are encouraged to get up and move around during their workday, most classrooms are still adhering to old viewpoints of sitting still in class. As office furniture has evolved in ergonomics, helping to increase blood flow and decrease pressure points, classroom furniture hasn't changed at all. As standing stations become more common in workspaces, the concept should be extended to schools, as well.

Allowing students to stand at workstations increases movement to help improve blood flow, which increases brain activity. This increased brain activity allows students to focus better on tasks, making learning easier and more comprehensive.

It also encourages natural movement for students, helping to manage energy levels, while helping them concentrate. By providing freedom of movement, classrooms are showing students how they can achieve academic success and live a healthier life.

Enhancements to the conventional products found within the classroom are also helping to expand on this concept. Some desk products allow students to swing their feet using a footrest bar. This innovative bar helps students to keep moving at a height-adjustable desk while they sit or stand. These movements can build on the amount of energy burned while standing, and the bar allows this energy to be focused to one area, leading to less distraction across the classroom.

Feel the Learn
Movement throughout the school day has been limited in recent years due to budget cuts for physical education courses and recess. Administrators, teachers, and parents are now focusing on movement within the classroom for its health benefits.

Fidgeting and natural movement of a child is part of Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT), which is energy burned during daily activities, including tapping your foot or just standing to stretch. Standing stations are helping students to burn excess calories through NEAT, without the normal distractions movement may cause in the classroom.

By focusing on movement in the classroom, standing up for learning is gaining attention as a tool to help combat the high increase of obese and overweight children over the past few decades.

Across the nation's classrooms, 25 percent of children are overweight and 11 percent are obese (The Nutrition Journal, 2005). The concerns regarding obesity not only affect our children's quality of life, but researchers are finding that childhood obesity is becoming so severe that the next generation could be the first in more than 200 years to live shorter lives than their parents (The New England Journal of Medicine, 2005).

While students twist and turn to learn, they are burning energy, including excess calories. As childhood obesity rises, allowing students to be active while learning is a great way to help them stay healthier.

Studies show people who naturally fidget can burn an extra 100 to 800 calories a day over people who do not fidget. Burning an extra 350 calories a day can add up to between 10 and 30 pounds lost per year (Minneapolis Heart Institute Foundation, 2009).

The lessons learned in the classrooms of the future are ones students should carry with them into their futures. Academically and physically, standing up for learning can help improve students' lives and teach them that movement is important throughout their daily activities. It's time our classrooms fidget to the future.

Carrie Eidem is the marketing coordinator at Safco Products, www.safcoproducts.com.

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