Teachers take a stand for children’s health in the classroom

Published On March 23, 2015 | By Erian De Los Reyes | Lifestyle
Classrooms across Canada have begun implementing stand up desks for students. Commercial desks are available for purchase or some teachers are constructing their own. (Photo courtesy of Flickr via Tim Lauer).

Classrooms across Canada have begun implementing stand up desks for students. Commercial desks are available for purchase or some teachers are constructing their own. (Photo courtesy of Flickr via Tim Lauer).

By Katherine George

Schools across Canada are rearranging classrooms to provide stand up desks for children who spend up to two-thirds of their day sitting.

Toronto teacher Alana Guinane introduced standing up desks in her class at Donview Health and Wellness Academy.

The idea of standing up in class came from an online infographic that describes sitting as the new smoking.

“I was teaching health at the time and the infographic started conversation about the fact that I’m the only person who isn’t sitting all day,” said Guinane.

She suggested a change in the classroom environment and the kids took it from there.

“The students came up with the perimeters for how they could do it while still learning and not disrupting the classroom,” she said.

Beginning in October the students tested out different ways to stand up during a lesson, from carrying clipboards to working at lab counters.

“A large portion of students do not benefit from traditional forms of teaching. Children need to be making connections with their world and socializing with their peers.” – Kristine Fenning

By mid-December the construction of standing up desks took place.

Classrooms have been traditional for a very long time and it’s time for a change, said Kristine Fenning, program coordinator of Early Childhood Education at Humber College.

“A large portion of students do not benefit from traditional forms of teaching. Children need to be making connections with their world and socializing with their peers,” Fenning told Humber News.

Benefits from stand up work stations

A Texas-based study found students burn up to 15 per cent more calories when they were able to stand during class as opposed to students who were sedentary.

The health benefits are great, Fenning said, but the social benefits are better.

Children learn in a variety of different ways and this allows children who struggle with sitting for long periods of time to get their work done.

“When children sit for so long their attention span shortens, children will be able to better focus on things that are important” said Fenning.

Guinane said the most noticeable benefits came from increased energy and focus, but for students it was the liberty to choose.

“It was important to students to have the choice to sit or stand and for how long. Everybody experience increased energy, but it was the choice that was most helpful,” said Guinane.

Giving students an outlet for their restlessness will limit what is perceived as bad behaviour in the classroom.

“A child might be acting out because they simply can’t sit all day. If they get up and move around, it will allow them to fidget without disrupting the entire class,” said Fenning.

“It was important to students to have the choice to sit or stand and for how long. Everybody experience increased energy, but it was the choice that was most helpful.” – Alana Guinane

Fenning believes too much pressure is put on teachers to maintain classroom behaviour when the focus should be on adapting teaching methods to benefit all children.

“Standing up while learning is a form of teaching that can reach all students,” she said.

Teachers will have to create new guidelines for students, but good teachers will do that regardless, said Fenning.

The cost is not cheap. The marketed price for one commercial standing working station starts at $500.

Teachers who are limited in spending can look to the community to get involved and help children build standing desks in their classroom, said Fenning.

The benefits of standing desks can be replicated by letting students actively explore their world, said Fenning. Classes can offer more frequent breaks throughout the day, take the classroom outdoors or swap chairs with exercise balls.

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