There are many different positions students sit in throughout the day. This is something people who design classroom seating must think about: How can a single chair design work for everyone? How’s that chair improve learning, meet ergonomic standards, and keep kids comfortable?
Some people within the ergonomics research community will tell you that sitting is complicated. Even when you sit still, your body is still constantly moving. Micro motions occur when you maintain balance while larger macro motions occur when you move your arms and legs – both are essential for your well-being. These are all things classroom seating must take into consideration.
Important Classroom Seating Considerations
There are several factors that impact seating, including:
- Kids spend a lot of time sitting – about 9 hours per day or 80% of the time spent in a classroom.
- Although classroom seating was originally designed to enforce upright posture, this can create an excess amount of muscle exertion, which can also negatively affect your diaphragm, breathing, and voice quality.
- Children come in all different sizes, strengths, and cognitive abilities. Most school furniture is out of date and doesn’t confirm to minimum orthopedic-physiological requirements.
- Classroom seating that doesn’t meet acceptable ergonomic standards can cut off blood circulation; cause rounding of the back; make your shoulders, neck and back muscles feel tense; constrict your digestive organs; and place pressure on your spinal cord.
- Mental processes are negatively impacted by poor classroom seating. This can cause inattention, poor concentration, poor memory and lowered achievement levels.
What Ergonomics Matter Most for Classroom Seating
Since it’s expensive and unrealistic to have seats ergonomically designed and custom-made for every student, here are a few things we should do:
- Make sure your furniture is the right size. Children need to sit with their feet firmly planted on the floor and their backs against their chairs. This is important for their backs and also helps decrease fidgeting. This is why you should buy adjustable versions of chairs so you can meet every child’s needs.
- Movable seating helps promote learning. One such system is the Smith System. It uses a design principle called the Graduated Movement Concept. Here you’ll find chair lines that range from single-position chairs to full four-position seating with side-to-side and front-to-back “give.” This is great because it lets you tailor your classroom furniture’s ergonomics to support your curriculum. This is done in several ways. There’s Intuit Seating that contains movement and directs attention straight ahead while also providing back and shoulder support. Plato Seating allows more movement, so students can face front and both sides. This Euro-spec chair provides a wide seat pan, flex, and pronounced lumbar support to encourage good posture and breathing. There are also Flavors Seating which offers maximum movement and four seating positions. Its seat back flexes front to back and torsionally so students can shift and move around without any chair resistance. This type of seating provides the benefits of a stability ball, but with more overall stability and back support, and less student misuse.
- Functionality is also important. You want classroom seating to complement your curriculum. Since much of this now occurs in small groups, it’s important for your furniture to be nimble enough to be configurable into groups. Since today’s classrooms are active learning environments it’s now important for chairs to be portable in both weight and design. You want your students (regardless of their age) to be able to quickly and easily move, arrange, stack and store the furniture you use.
When you’re ready to adopt ergonomic seating in your school, contact Education Resource Partners. They will help you find the right classroom seating to help enhance your curriculum.
Picture Credit: FEP CFDT