Schools Address Class Ergonomics

Students at Sea Crest School are using more flexible seating arrangements for what teachers there say is a better learning environment. Photo courtesy Ambar Pina

Courtesy Half Mon Bay Review


Health experts say that remaining seated for extended periods of time can be hazardous to your health. In addition to the drawbacks of a sedentary day, working in an ergonomically incorrect space can wreak havoc on your body by placing undue stress on your spine. 

Even on the elementary school scale, children spend long spans of time hunched over their desks.

Now there is a revolution in how students sit.

“Kids need movement,” said Jennifer Guevara, a third-grade teacher at Sea Crest School. “Students need to use their whole body. They need to be comfortable, be aware, to be focused.”

“If you look at older classroom furniture, you’ll notice that correct height of the desk and chairs didn’t match,” said Andrew Geller, director of facilities at Sea Crest School. “Having the cubby underneath means the chair has to be up higher for the kid’s leg. Most small kids at our school, their desks are way too high, their arms should be out directly at a 90-degree angle.”

In order to solve this problem, Geller has led a project encompassing the replacement of outdated classroom desks, tables and chairs with flexible furniture that facilitates movement as well as proper body alignment.

“If you look at the new desks in the second- and third-grade classrooms, you’ll realize that there’s no cubby there,” he said.

“On the first day of school, I noticed there was no cubby under the desk,” said third-grade student Wyatt Dunning. “I just went with the flow.”

“It wasn’t bad, but it was definitely different,” noted Oliver Gestwicki, also a third-grader. “Sometimes the stuff goes all the way back to the desk and you can’t find it. Having no cubbies under the desks is easier.”

The corresponding desk chairs are modern looking and are arranged in an array of cheerful colors.

The chairs are constructed to facilitate movement, something that certain kids crave as they learn.

“There’s a little bit of flex to the desk chairs,” said Geller. “There’s movement even in these.”

“My favorite part of the classroom is the chair because you get to wobble around,” said Derek Rose, who sits in a green chair. “I wanted a different color chair. I wanted an orange one.”

“I like my desk, my chair is really comfy in the back,” said Julianna Formolo. “It’s kind of lumpy and it goes out.” Some kids need to move, even if they have new chairs. Enter the hockey stool, a round chair that looks sort of like a drum.

“The idea behind hockey stools is (when children) are forced to sit still, it creates tension,” said Geller. “The hockey stool allows them to sit while they learn. Some kids have better focus because their body is in motion,” he continued.

“The general idea is that you’re not keeping your kids bolted to the same location on the floor. You’re standing, you’re moving,” said Geller. “You’re creating different spaces, that’s the general idea behind all of this, to not keep kids trapped in their seats.”

“Another example, is sitting on the floor, there are kids who don’t want to sit on the floor,” said Guevara. “They grab a hockey chair without even making an issue.”

Each student desk is equipped with wheels. The configuration facilitates easy movement when the classroom environment calls for it.

“I like that the desks roll,” said student Cullen Simmons. “It’s awesome.”

“Once students are trained to do what feels right,” said Guevara, “it gives them an opportunity to recognize what they need and they have the resources to make it happen which makes learning so much better and so much more effective.”