Standing Students: The Classroom of the Future?

Would students who have a hard time sitting still and concentrating do better if allowed to stand rather than sit in class?  Could a different kind of desk actually help reduce childhood obesity rates?  Those are questions a small school is Idaho school is attempting to answer by replacing standard student desks with height-adjustable ones that allow children to remain on their feet while learning.

While stand-up desks in the workplace are nothing new, the benefits of using them in classrooms has not been studied.  Until now. In collaboration with the Mayo Clinic, researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory are currently collecting data from students at the Hope Lutheran School in Idaho Falls.

These sixth graders spend their classroom hours at special desks that allow them to stand or sit during lessons. They wear pedometers to count their daily steps and are weighed twice a month.  In addition, the researchers are also monitoring the attention and concentration skills of the students to see if their focus improves.

Dr. James Levine, an obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic, believes that stand-up desks are an idea whose time has come.  “It’s the first, real-world, large-scale study of what will be the future of education,” he says.

Anecdotal evidence from teachers already suggests that students most definitely benefit from the ability to move around while learning.  And other studies have shown that regular and prolonged bouts of sitting can have adverse health effects. But while teachers have been experimenting with the seating arrangements in their classrooms for some time, this idea involves more than moving around the furniture.  A stand-up desk like the ones used in the Hope Lutheran School cost anywhere from $250 to $500, putting them out of reach for most schools.  Which may ultimately mean that stand-up desks are the future of education only for those who can afford it.

Image: alamosbasement/Flickr

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