The following video features the AlphaBetter® Standing Desk with fidget bar that teacher Abby Brown and a local furniture company collaborated on when traditional furniture wasn’t working in her classroom. Watch it and then read on to find out why Abby gave in to her students’ need to fidget.
As a teacher of more than 30 years, I’m a big supporter of fidgeting.
I know this might sound a little unusual at first. We spend a lot of time telling students things like, “Sit still.” “Keep your hands to yourself.” “Stay in a straight line!” But when it comes to listening and learning in a classroom setting, I’ve found that many students do better when they are able to wiggle, squirm, move and fidget.
My interest in getting kids up and moving goes all the way back to college while earning a degree in health education. During this time, I learned a lot about the importance of keeping kids active and moving. However, it wasn’t until I became a teacher myself that I really understood the need firsthand.
As an educator, you probably know what I’m talking about all too well. Kids need to move. They are in school over seven hours a day, and most of that time is spent just sitting. The little bit of time they get for recess, gym and lunch isn’t enough to sustain their active bodies and minds. They need to wiggle and squirm—and research has shown time and time again that this makes them better learners.
My journey in creating a solution for my classroom started about 10 years ago with a lot of passion and a $500 grant to buy stand-up desks. As I started looking at options, I quickly became disappointed in the selection available. None were made in America, and the overall quality could not stand up to rigorous classroom use.
I was talking to our school custodian about the hard time I was having, and he gave me a suggestion: “Find someone to manufacture something better,” he said. “I know this guy who does this kind of work. You should talk to him.”
That is exactly what I did. I found the right company to work with, and then for the next two years, I worked with them to help create what is known as the AlphaBetter® Stand-Up Desk. I am so proud to be part of this desk, and my favorite feature is the “fidget bar” along the bottom. This really supports kids’ natural instinct and habit to move and wiggle, and they can do it without disturbing the rest of the class.
Ten years later, I have witnessed the benefits of kids being able to move more firsthand. For instance, when someone in my class is at a stand-up desk, they naturally move and adjust as they’re learning. They might stand for math or science and then pull out a stool when it’s time to read aloud. It really does create an environment where kids want to learn.
Other teachers in my school who use stand-up desks say they’ve noticed students more alert, with healthier postures, better movement, more engaged classroom discussions and even better handwriting.
I’ve used this desk in my classroom for years, and it’s fun to see how it’s spread throughout my school and community. We were even featured in national media like ABC World News and The New York Times!
People have asked me if I’m an inventor. The answer is no—I didn’t invent the AlphaBetter but instead helped test it, give feedback on it and make sure it was a good product. People have also asked me if I’m an entrepreneur. The answer is also no—I don’t own a business or have patents or anything.
The truth is, I’m just a teacher. And like a lot of others out there, I’m a teacher who wanted to have a small part in making the classroom a better place for students. I’m happy to know that I’ve done this. My students might fidget more, but I know they’re learning more as well.
Get Your Own Stand-Up Desks
1. Start small. Even if you have 20+ desks in your classroom, start out with just a couple for students to try out. Then once your students start using them, they’ll start talking about the benefits, and it’ll be easier to raise funds for more.
2. Try it yourself. If you’re a teacher, think about the benefits of a stand-up desk for yourself as well. I use one, and it really does make you a more versatile teacher.
3. Show proof to your administration. You can find countless articles and research out there to support stand-up workspaces and how kids learn better when they are more active. Do your research first, before you go to administrators.
4. Ask for support from your parent group. The parents in these groups have a vested interest in giving their students the best education possible. Once you tell them about the benefits their kids could experience, there’s a good chance they’d be willing to invest in a couple of stand-up desks to try out.
5. Look for grants. When I started, I searched “how to write an effective grant,” and then I went from there. You won’t get every grant you apply for, but once you gather the right materials for the first grant, it’ll make the rest easier to apply for.