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Sit Still at Your Desk? Not Always
June 6, 2010

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Years ago, a student who misbehaved could have been sent to the back corner of the room and told to stand, back to the class, for a period of time, presumably to consider the consequences of his or her actions. The punishment was for not sitting still in class.

The two key words in that last sentence are sitting still. Increasingly, in classrooms across the U.S., students are doing neither.

Following a trend gaining increasing visibility in offices, some schools are replacing traditional desks and chairs with height-adjustable workstations and stools, so that students can sit, perch, stand, and even fidget at their desks. Students are learning to think on their feet, literally and figuratively.

If, as many doctors insist, it's not natural for people to sit still for long periods of time, then why not, these schools say, apply that idea to children in classrooms? Speaking of doctors, more than one school is coupling this stand-up approach to learning with a study on student exercise. In a bid to combat childhood obesity, one school in Idaho is taking part in a Mayo Clinic study by issuing pedometers to its students. The students are motivated to rack up ever larger numbers on their pedometers, and they are not discouraged for moving about the classroom.

One particular side benefit identified by a few teachers has been the ability to address the problem of students who literally cannot sit still, for whatever reason. Now, with desks that allow them to stand or perch, they don't have to just sit.

Money can be a problem, of course, since most schools already have classrooms that accommodate students sitting in chairs at desks. But private funding and fundraising have solved that problem at schools in the Midwest.

Whether students are able to sit on exercise balls or stride on a treadmill at their desks — as is the case in some American offices — remains to be seen. What is the case is that more than ever before, teachers and schools are thinking outside the desk-chair-student-sits box.

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