Standing desks in schools

The classroom of the past was a much colder, stricter place. Children were to be seen and not heard, expected to sit still and study for hours at a time. Ill discipline was met with the cane, and fidgeting was considered the devils work (probably).

Thankfully, we've come along way as a society in the last century. We now embrace a more holistic, active and inclusive set of principles, in life and in school. Yet, we still ask our kids to sit rigid for the majority of their learning time.

Many moons ago, when kids sat down to school, the adults toiled the fields. Then a little later in history perhaps stood at the production line. But nowadays we mostly sit on our behinds to work too.

Or at least, we did. Standing desks have nothing short or revolutionised the modern office in the last few years. Individual workers, companies and entire corporations have embraced a more active work life. Yet schools have been slower to adopt standing desks.

This article will look into why standing desks in schools are still relatively rare, and seek to dispel the myths surrounding their use. We'll also look into how standing desks can be of benefit in education, the health implications, their use in discouraging disruptive behaviour. We'll dive into some studies on the matter, and explain why we think the classroom of the future should feature standing desks.

Why Is A Good Desk So Important In School?

Importance of desks in schools

Before we get into all of that though, let's start at the beginning. Whether we're sitting or standing, understanding why desks are important, and what's important about them, will help us understand what we're trying to get from our desk.

If you've ever tried to study or work with your laptop actually in your lap, you'll know the basics. Back in the day, tired of etching on his lap, presumably some clever forbear of ours strapped some wood together and made the first desk. Since then we've used them to write, draw, learn, sketch designs, and house our PC's.

But desks are much more than just a platform. They provide a dedicated area for study, and a place we we associate with learning - a place where psychologically it becomes easier to focus.

What Are The Benefits Of Using Standing Desks In Schools?

Many modern workplaces are kitted out with standing desks, and all manner of gizmos to encourage a more active workday. So if the future office has finally learned better, surely in the future classroom standing desks have a place?

A host of trails and studies on standing desks in schools would seem to suggest that, just as in the office, standing to study can help to boost focus and productivity through the school day.

And in an age of rising child obesity, it could have profound public health benefits and implications too, if implemented widely. So why are schools so slow to catch on? The answers are many, but the main two reasons we've heard seem to be bound up in misunderstanding.

The first is the perceived expense of standing desks - which in fact are not anything like as expensive as many school principles might think. The second is grounded in the fear that using standing desks would somehow lead to less a less focused class and more disruptive behaviour. The evidence, however, seems to suggest the exact opposite.

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How Can Standing Desks Help Students Focus In The Classroom?

A standing desk for school children helps focus in a number of ways. Many kids struggle to maintain focus on their studies, and will find any way possible to distract themselves. Fidgeting has been shown to reduce in kids using standing desks.

Standing desks allow kids to move freely, change position, and remain comfortable throughout the day, all of which aid study and concentration. The increase in physical activity, however, probably has the biggest impact.

This study, which combined the data from 11 separate studies of standing desk interventions in schools across the USA, showed a marked increase in attention span, as reported by teachers and parents in focus groups.

Students focus on an activity in the classroom

Are Standing Desks Really Good For Studying?

Another study, conducted across three Texan elementary schools, showed significant increases in physical activity amongst children using standing desks vs the control group (those without). This increase in physical activity seemed to be coupled with a boost in concentration and focus, with the standing desk users keeping focus longer.

Given what we know about the links between brain and body, it should be no surprise that a a healthier study style should produce better results. Studies on primary school children are yet to be conducted.

Are Standing Desks Good For Kids?

Traditional seated desks have one huge drawback - they force our kids to sit all day. Sitting for prolonged periods is known to have serious health drawbacks for adults, which is why so many of us have moved to a sit stand or stand biased desk.

Even in kids, the effects of sedentary living can be profound. Obesity is rising in children, and although this is partly attributed to diet, too much sitting is also a big contributory factor. This study states that in the USA and Canada, kids spend up to 60% of their waking time sedentary - which, when you consider the long term health effects of sedentary living, is pretty scary.

Can Standing Desks Help With Child Obesity?

Hopefully, the answer is yes. Schools implementing adjustable standing desks for students showed a marked increase in activity and steps during the day vs static desks, which clearly indicates that standing desks could have a big effect on childhood obesity.

Regular movement during the day promotes good blood circulation, but can also help fire the metabolism. This helps us burn calories quicker and more efficiently, helping to minimise weight gain.

So, it's reasonable to expect that schools who have implemented standing desks should see an impact on the overall health, and weight, of their student population.

Are Standing Desks A Good Idea For Disruptive Kids?

Although it might seem counter intuitive, a standing desk intervention can be surprisingly effective in helping disruptive children focus and burn off energy. Using a standing desk will allow the child to move naturally during the day, minimising the urge to get out from the desk and away from their studies.

Physical activity is not just good for your child's health - it can be a huge factor in how well they study, and can help alter their behaviour. Allowing kids who struggle to focus a little leeway to move can help keep them focused and healthy, and improve their academic performance.

Active kids participate well in school activities

Do Standing Desks Help With ADHD?

There is certainly a body of evidence that physical activity can help with ADHD, but can a more physical study style help to improve focus for ADHD sufferers? Scientifically, there is every reason to believe standing desks can help.

In his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, “Exercise turns on the attention system, the so-called executive functions — sequencing, working memory, prioritizing, inhibiting, and sustaining attention - on a practical level, it causes kids to be less impulsive, which makes them more primed to learn.”

For kids with ADHD, being able to move during the day can help to stimulate this response, aiding focus and improving the quality of study. Coupled with the ability to change position sit to stand desks provide, and the plethora of health benefits into the bargain, a standing desk intervention can be, for the right kid, a very powerful approach.

Is Standing Or Sitting Better For Learning?

As with at work, a sit to stand desk is best used to alter and vary position. Kids suffer less from the negative effects of too much time spent standing though, so can probably stand more often - especially as time spent sitting can have such big drawbacks. In terms of learning, as you will know, every child is different - so you'll need to find the best balance for you kid (or classroom).

We hope that this article has helped explain some of the key benefits of using standing desks in schools. Standing desks can aid concentration, help keep your kids healthy and their energy levels high through the day, and has knock on effects on their posture and long term health. With the associated boosts to learning and wellbeing, we think it won't be long until many schools have finally joined the sit stand revolution.

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