Better chairs (and desks) for better learning? On Slate, Linda Perlstein looks at readers’ suggestions for improving school furniture, which typically is designed to be cheap and indestructible.
Ergonomists recommend adjustable classroom seats and desks, but schools rarely fit the desk and chair to the student and keep them together, Perlstein writes.
One ergonomist recommends letting short students sit on a Swedish air-filled cushion that has the added advantage of bounciness. Movement is good for the body and the mind.
. . . ergonomists who have watched well-behaved children at standing-height tables or in bouncy chairs in Sweden or New Zealand or Canada insist that innovative furniture makes students pay more attention, not less.
Galen Cranz, a Berkeley professor of architecture and design, and author of “The Chair as Health Hazard,” thinks students shouldn’t sit at all.
She recommends higher, tilting tables that allow students to perch or stand, or exercise balls, which have the added benefit of keeping kids awake. There seems to be agreement among ergonomists about the value of perching, with the legs at a 120-degree rather than 90-degree angle—keeping the hips above the knees is good for the body, and the position has been adopted in some European schools. They disagree, though, about the balls.
Many children and adults will manage to find weird ways of sitting in the most ergonomically correct furniture, Perlstein concedes.
Slate is soliciting classroom redesign ideas from its readers.