Standing desks and flexible seating are among teachers’ most wished-for items. With so much research and support around the benefits of standing, moving, and fidgeting, it’s no wonder these supplies are making teachers’ lives easier. But are they really that great?
To find out, we recently sent three teachers a set of standing desks and flexible seating chairs for their classrooms. Trevor Muir (TM), Elizabeth Peyton (EP), and Anna Mauk (AM) all tried the items with their students, in upper elementary, middle, and high school respectively. Here’s what they learned. (You can also hear Trevor talk about his experience through the Facebook Live event we did with him. He talks to the Safco experts about the benefits of standing desks for modern classrooms.)
1. Standing desks are great for collaboration.
On numerous occasions, I’ve had students work around a standing desk during collaborative work time. They like having a break from sitting, and having a desk at chest height has been good for conversation and discussions. –TM
2. Flexible seating really works.
We used stability ball chairs, and the lack of a back and the cushion seat made it very comfortable for students to place one knee on the chair while balancing with the other foot on the floor. This posture allowed them to gently sway back and forth as they worked. –AM
3. Kids need to move…a lot.
You know how when you watch a baby or a toddler, you can’t believe how much they move around? So much so that it’s exhausting to watch them? Turns out that when they’re not confined to a desk, middle school kids are no different. At first, this was incredibly distracting. Gradually, I realized that it was somewhat distracting to me, but it wasn’t bothering the other kids at all. And those few kids who were constantly in motion still seemed engaged and focused. In fact, I heard from the teachers who have those students later in the day that their behavior had been better, and I suspect all the movement during my class period may deserve some of the credit. –EP
4. Students who are natural fidgeters really come into their own.
By not having to be as stationary, and getting to move their legs and body more while they work, they are then able to focus more on the tasks at hand. The sway bar on the bottom of the desk where they can rest their foot has also been great for them because it’s another way to keep moving while staying focused. –TM
5. Students love having the choice to sit or stand.
All teachers know that students love options, and this definitely applies to the seating. By having the standing desk available to them, they are given another option of where and how they work in class. This simple addition to the room means a lot in terms of their ownership of the space and how they use it. I’ve even had to start a rotation system for who gets to use the standing desks each day. Students are treasuring the option of getting to work in class in a new way. –TM
6. A single shelf goes a long way.
The handy shelf on the desks meant no one’s water bottle is in the way. Water bottles sweat and leak and spill and get knocked off of desks. All. The. Time. They are responsible for most of the messes in my classroom. But, with the water bottle tucked away on the shelf, even if it sweats or leaks, the students’ papers and books aren’t damaged, and I doubt that they will be likely to be knocked off of the shelf since it is out of the way. –AM
7. They’re a conversation starter.
The kids were excited about the desks, but they weren’t sure why, exactly, we’d gotten them. We used that opportunity to talk a lot about health, the risks of a sedentary lifestyle (which, incidentally, we force on our students much of the time), and the way the body and brain work together. We talked about learning styles, and how moving often helps people remember things, and how difficult it is to focus when you stay in the same position for a long period of time. Hopefully, the kids will apply this to the time they spend studying and working on homework, too! –EP
8. The view is always good.
Students who are at the standing desks can easily see the board at the front of the room because, just like in a theater, they are elevated slightly above the students at regular desks in front of them. Prior to having the standing desks someone’s head was always in the way. –AM