Thursday, January 17, 2008

Expert: Don't make students sit still

Ergo-dynamic classroom furniture keeps students active ...

"For some teachers, the ideal classroom is filled with students sitting stock-still at their desks.

Not so for Dr. Dieter Breithecker, head of the Federal Institute for Posture and Mobilization Support in Germany.

"The problem with today is that we are sitting our way through life," Breithecker said during a stop at Providence High School on Tuesday to give a presentation on the importance of movement and posture in the classroom.

His visit was courtesy of German teacher Linda Horvath, who's interested in launching a study of movement in the classroom at Providence. Her interest was prompted by Providence's recent move to four-by-four block scheduling, which keeps students sitting for 90-minute classes.

She and Carmen Braun, marketing manager of furniture company VS America Inc., are in the beginning stages of requesting approval from the school board for the study.

Humans need to remain active, and by sitting in a classroom or an office space for hours at a time, "we are falling into a body and mind fatigue," said Breithecker, an expert on ergonomics.

He speaks to teachers about the importance of movement, especially with adolescents.

"We have to challenge organs or they won't develop to the highest quality," he said, adding that some organs take up to 20 years to fully develop.

Unlike most teachers, Breithecker approves of allowing students to rock in their chairs. This sort of movement, he said, is a child's natural tendency to stay active.

VS America has designed ergo-dynamic classroom furniture with this in mind. The chairs swivel and turn, allowing for "dynamic sitting," and the freedom of movement helps circulation and ultimately increases concentration, according to Breithecker.

The desks and chairs also adapt to individual height requirements. This is important, he said, with 80 percent of students sitting in furniture that is not made for their size.

The furniture has made a difference. In regular classrooms, attention tends to decline after the third hour. But with ergonomic furniture, the ability to concentrate steadily increases, Breithecker said."    (Continued via Charlotte Observer)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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