11 Feb 2013
Children sitting attentively listening to the teacher could be a thing of the past if research from AUT proves beneficial. While the students will still be listening to the teacher, they may be standing rather than sitting.
Associate Professor Erica Hinckson and doctoral candidate Saeideh Aminian are working with Onepoto Primary School in Northcote. The objective is to determine if standing up promotes more physical activity and improves learning. For a trial period of a few weeks this year one senior class had most chairs and tables removed and replaced with stand-up desks.
Associate Professor Hinckson says it is about reducing the opportunities for children to be sedentary.
“Children are naturally active, they like to exercise and move around. Standing up desks affords them the opportunity to move while they are learning,” she says.
“Most children have a lot of energy to expend and if they are not using it during the course of the day there can be a tendency to be distracted.”
A communal aspect was also introduced to the classroom with all stationery shared rather than owned by each student. To measure the effects on the children, they were fitted with a device that measures the time students are sitting or standing. The device was used by the children during the school day and when they went home with some interesting results.
They found that stand-up desks resulted in an extra hour standing up per day compared with when they used chairs. And while it was found that children would spend less time after school standing, in the weekends they did more physical activity than before.
Principal of Onepoto Marc Dombroski said he was open-minded about the idea of change from the very start. “We weren’t worried. We’re not frightened of new ideas.
The lay-out of the classroom was completely changed with stand-up desks situated in a circular formation around the room. Swiss balls were made available for children to use if they got tired.
Children adapt to standing
Mr Dombroski said that while the Swiss balls were popular at the beginning, eventually the children preferred to stand. “It was the novelty factor I think. Eventually after a few weeks they just didn’t bother with them,” he says.
The children tended to conglomerate in friend groups he said with some tables proving more popular than others.
“In conclusion I think it has been a great initiative. They seem to have more energy and because they are working so closely with each other in a dynamic learning space, there is more interaction which promotes social skills.”
“Ideally we would have a combination of stand-up desks and chairs.”