Stand up for standing classrooms

Feb. 6, 2024, 1:56 p.m. | By Caleb Elazar | 4 months, 1 week ago

Standing classrooms vastly improve students’ lives in more ways than one

Students working and collaborating at standing desks. Photo courtesy of Caleb Elazar.

Sitting in school has been common practice since the dawn of education. This tradition is perceived as harmless—and why wouldn’t it be? Each year, thousands of students go to school, take a seat, and prepare to learn. Nevertheless, sitting for long periods of time is linked to numerous bodily issues including weakened muscles, tight joints, and even depression. Serial-sitters are also more prone to chronic health problems such as diabetes or heart disease. 

No student deserves to be at risk of life-threatening diseases solely by attending school. The solution: standing classrooms that engage students and eliminate such health risks. Teachers who utilize this tactic create a better environment for students, allowing them to perform their best every day.

Classroom benefits 

Since returning from the pandemic, engaging students in class has been a prominent issue for teachers. Blair’s initiative to increase engagement took the form of a cell phone policy limiting usage during class. Algebra teacher Kristen Cole took a different approach. She researched—and eventually implemented—a much more active classroom environment, lifting students out of their seats and into small groups working on whiteboards. Cole said her students were more committed and took control of their education while decreasing cell phone use. “Cell phone use decreased tremendously, so they were more engaged in problems. They also took more ownership and responsibility for their own learning,” Cole says. 

Other teachers at Blair who don’t typically have an active classroom environment are attempting to follow in Cole’s footsteps. Charlie Demma, an AP Biology teacher, frequently uses labs to get students out of their seats and moving around the room. Demma notes the difference when his students partake in labs versus sedentary lectures. “It's like night and day when kids get a chance to move around. It turns a bad class into a good class,” Demma says.

Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, improving mood and energy levels, both of which are crucial to maintaining active engagement in class. Cole attested to this, noticing more creative thought processes when her students were up and mobile. “Being up, standing, and moving around the room, gets the juices flowing,” Cole says.

Not only does standing up enhance personal mood levels, but it also boosts overall class morale. Being able to get up and socialize with friends is a refreshing alternative to sitting by yourself, in an uncomfortable position, listening to a boring lecture. Standing up in groups kills two birds with one stone: students can interact while completing their assignments more efficiently. 

Sophomore Evan Cline, who took Cole’s class as a freshman, says it's easier to talk in a group environment when standing versus sitting. “If we’re in groups, standing makes it easier to talk and walk around the room. It shouldn't be awkward to stand up [in class],” Cline says. The peer-to-peer learning seen in these standing groups develops the necessary critical thinking and problem-solving skills for higher education.

Sedentary lifestyle

Unfortunately, school isn’t the only place where children sit for hours at a time. Many kids now prefer to sit indoors while on devices rather than be physically active outside. In a study conducted by the National Library of Medicine, researchers found that “children spend most of their discretionary time in sedentary behavior,” and “screen time is the most prevalent sedentary behavior, and has been associated with poor health outcomes.” This inactive lifestyle prevalent in the younger generations isn’t complimented by desk-bound education. In fact, the culmination of idle behavior at home and at school fosters the perfect environment for the growth of one of America’s leading issues: childhood obesity.

In the last three decades, childhood obesity rates have tripled and now affect almost 15 million adolescents. That translates to about 1 in 5 children. Obesity increases the risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes, all of which can lead to heart disease. From a mental health standpoint, obesity regularly induces psychological problems such as low self-esteem and depression. 

Standing classrooms could help solve this issue, as standing up throughout the day burns up to 15% more calories, helping to regulate weight gain and to take preventative measures against serious health risks. By simply encouraging students to get up and move—albeit seemingly pointless—teachers take a productive step toward alleviating students' physical and mental health issues. 

Junior Nathan Ache calls upon teachers to utilize standing classrooms more widely as it is uncomfortable for him to sit down for hours at a time. “All of my classes are sitting down and my legs get very jittery [after sitting for long periods],” Ache says. According to the CDC, when people stand more throughout the work day aches and pains are alleviated, posture improves, and there is an overall increase in comfort.

Drawbacks of standing

While there are many benefits to having a standing or active classroom, it’s not feasible for everyone. Students get tired. They moan and groan, acclimated to prolonged sitting. Furthermore, plenty of material requires students to sit, listen to a lecture, and take notes. Group work can’t be 100 percent of the learning experience. A balance between standing and sitting in class brings the best results for students. When done right, this balance is advantageous to all parties and improves the school environment by simply making students happier.

One of the most efficient ways to maintain a standing environment would be to implement standings desks in every classroom. Teachers wouldn’t have to coax students out of their seats because there wouldn’t be any seats. There’s just one problem: the financial aspect. Andrew Fields, Blair’s business administrator says it’s something that might be looked at in the future but wouldn’t be anywhere near possible in one year. “In one shot, it's not in the budget. But as far as implementing slowly, it would be something that could be considered,” Fields says.

At Blair, only Cole and a handful of other teachers actively incorporate the standing setting into their classes. Expanding outward, teachers looking to create the ideal atmosphere for their students should look into standing classrooms. A little bit of research—as Cole did—goes a long way and can drastically improve the mental, physical, and educational well-being of students. Together, we should all stand up for standing classrooms.

Last updated: Feb. 6, 2024, 1:52 p.m.

Tags: standing classrooms

Caleb Elazar. Hey I'm Caleb, I'm on writing staff and I like playing soccer, listening to music and spending time with my friends and family. More »

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