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Home » School days

Stand-up desk perfect for kid who hates sitting

Submitted by on Friday, 17 October 2008 No Comment
To know Big Guy is to watch him squirm. And twist. And jump. And do anything but sit in one place for longer than a split second.

He's lucky right now, because his kindergarten class moves from station to station every 10 minutes, as small groups of 5-year-olds switch activities frequently enough to keep their still-tiny attention spans captive.

By the time he's in second grade, though, I might start singing "On, Wisconsin." I hate snow, but I love the trend of stand-up desks that's catching on there.

It's partly the work of a fifth-grade teacher who recognized what often takes me a while to catch on to: My "do as I say, not as I do" hypocrisy.

"As a teacher, I never sit down,” Pam Seekel, a teacher in a district near the Minnesota border, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “I started to think: Why should I make the kids sit down?”

So this year, many students in Seekel's reading class are using a combination of stand-up desks -- with optional stools for when their feet yell "retreat!" -- and tall tables they can cluster around for group projects.

Isn't it perfect? They can twist and shout, shimmy and shake, all the while learning and burning extra energy that's going to help exhaust them into a more peaceful bedtime.

Stand-up desks are nothing new. I worked for a boss 10 years ago in North Carolina who used one because it took less of a toll on his back than sitting all day did. It looked funny, and a few folks giggled at first. Over the years, though, I realized how many times a day I'd get up to bounce around as fanny fatigue set in. I began to see the logic of stand-up desks.

How's that old saying go? The brain can absorb only what the butt can endure.

The extension into classrooms is fairly recent. A few years back a sixth-grade teacher in Minnesota knew an obesity researcher at the Mayo Clinic already had suggested chairless classrooms as a way to build more activitity into the school day.

When she couldn't find any models the right size, she took her idea and design sketches to Sunway Inc. in Wisconsin. "I pestered them—I mean, was persistent—until we came up with something that worked and would last," Abby Brown told The Chicago Tribune.

The Alpha-Better Adjustable Student Desk was born.

The downside of standing up: The price tag. The cheapest desk is $280; the stool is an extra $170. That's roughly twice the cost of a traditional classroom desk, the Journal Sentinel article says. The Sunway Web site is kind enough, though, to point to potential grant money to help school districts pay.

No word yet on quantifiable results of the chairless classrooms. Two studies are under way, the Journal Sentinel says -- one to try to determine how many extra calories the standing-room-only set burns and another to see if chairless students perfom better on the all-important bubble tests.

With or without research, I'm ready to invest. Except I want a chairless kitchen table. Anything to cut down on the nightly harangue of "Big Guy, sit down and eat."

Copyright 2008 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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