As an administrator, you probably spend a lot of your day on your feet—walking to classrooms, supervising in hallways, circulating within classrooms—and not very much extended time sitting at your desk.
But what about your students?
In the past few years, the research has started to become very clear: sitting for extended periods of time is terrible for our health.
To be clear, this isn't just about exercise. Even if you get tons of exercise, as many kids do, sitting for long periods of time is bad for you.
My friend Mike St. Pierre recently built a standing desk for himself. And we're getting into the trend, too. At The Principal Center, we produce a lot of audio and video content, and that means our team spends a lot of time working at computers.
We decided to take the research seriously. We now all have standing desks to break up the long blocks of sitting, and they make a big difference.
But what can you do for your students?
I asked researcher and PhD candidate Daphne Fecheyr-Lippens of Jaswig to share her insights about using standing desks with students.
Standing Desks in K-12: Q&A with PhD Candidate Daphne Fecheyr-Lippens
Justin Baeder: Why are standing desks catching on so quickly?
Standing desks are being adopted in more and more offices. They not only improve employees’ posture, but also make them more productive, creative and overall healthier and happier. Plus, they can save companies many dollars otherwise lost on healthcare costs, unproductive time, and absenteeism.
Justin: How is that translating into schools? We don't pay for students' healthcare costs, and kids don't typically have back problems the way adults do.
If standing desks are being introduced in offices to relieve problems associated with prolonged sitting, than why should we ask our students to sit down all day in the classroom? Students, especially younger ones, naturally like to stand up regularly.
That’s not surprising. Standing up makes their blood flow better, which increases oxygen transport to the brain, making them feel more awake and focused.
Standing also allows them to fidget more easily, which makes them spend excessive energy. Have you ever thought “Why can’t this student not sit still?” or “Does this kid never get tired?”
But there are more benefits of letting your students stand up. As a teacher it’s easier to interact with your students if they are on your level.
Justin: Do you see standing as long-term benefits for students, too?
To take it a step further into the future: our bodies aren’t made to sit down so much. Leading a sedentary lifestyle results in a bad posture, and greatly increases risks to develop diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and other health-related issues.
This makes schools perfectly positioned to change the status quo and not let students develop the bad habit of sitting down too much. There have been several schools around the world implementing standing desks into their classrooms, all with very positive results.
Justin: One of the challenges schools face with furniture is that learning involves a lot of different modes of interaction. A science classroom might already have desks plus a lab area with countertops. An elementary classroom might already have desks, small group tables, and other areas. How did this reality factor into your design decisions for your standing desk?
The ideal classroom is a dynamic one with different environments (e.g. bean bags, mats, desks) that provide the best learning environment for students with different behaviors and needs.
However, in many cases there are not many (or even no) options for standing, though many studies shows standing increases learning engagement. For us it was important that our standing desk could serve more than one purpose—that's why the ease of adjusting the desk from sitting to standing was essential.
Additionally, when standing up, it is very important to have to correct ergonomic positioning, so the height should be easily adjustable by any student, in very little time, and with complete safety.
Justin: In offices, you'll find motorized adjustable desks. At The Principal Center, we ruled these out because of their size and expense—they can cost thousands of dollars, and since neither Aaron or I is getting any taller, fixed standing desks were fine. What approach have you taken to helping schools provide standing desks for their students?
That was exactly the reason why we decided to make our own standing desk: we wanted a desk that is easily height adjustable, affordable, and doesn’t look like a transformer.
We sat down together and came up with a patent-pending height-adjustment mechanism that can be used by even the youngest child.
We critically looked at the design to take away pinch points and make it even more child-friendly.
We are continuously researching new materials so we can make our desks with materials that don’t harm the children by off-gassing; this is still a challenge today as the most durable and scratch-free options are typically the most harmful.
Justin: How does the desk operate?
The height of the desk can be adjusted by placing both hands on the desktop, pulling the surface towards you and sliding it up or down.
At the desired height you push it a little bit backward, which brings the desktop in place. There is a locking mechanism that prevents undesired height adjustments.
Here's a video of a 5-year-old adjusting the desk:
Justin: How can people learn more about Jaswig standing desks?
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