As wellness trends are in full swing for the New Year, I was thinking about the training at the Haworth Headquarters about wellness and ergonomics a few months back. This is something that is becoming the norm when designing and furnishing an office, especially sit to stand benching. But one thing that I was curious about is ergonomics in the classroom. Is this something that is taken into account when designing or refurbishing a classroom? Just like offices, classrooms should be adjusting to the same trends.
When thinking of ergonomics in relation to children or teenagers, it’s slightly different than ergonomics in the workplace. You can still evaluate all the different aspects that are listed in my previous post about ergonomics, which can be found here, to determine how and if ergonomics is even being taken into account.
The main difference of ergonomics in an office versus classroom is the people who occupy it, more specifically their different growth patterns and range of body size. Children and teens are constantly growing, which is not the case for adults. For example, a child in kindergarten is drastically different than a child in middle school who is completely different than a teenager in high school. Also, they tend to have a larger range of body size. When looking at a particular group of students’ range of body size, the chances of having a class of 30 children who are all the same size is nearly impossible. To give a visual of this, think about a group of 9-10 year old children who all have heights ranging from 40 inches to 65 inches. That’s a very diverse range of body types for a “one-size fits all” classroom setup.
With such vast range of size and growth rates in children, it makes it difficult choosing a desk size and appropriate chair for a classroom. Over 75% of elementary school children sit in a chair or at a desk that is not appropriate for their height. Traditional classroom furniture is very rigid and isn’t suitable for children’s varying work styles. The simplest solutions for fixing this is incorporating a flexi chair or rocking mechanism in the seating choices and having inclined top desks or stand in lecterns. This promote more ergonomically correct working environment for students.
Another aspect to evaluating ergonomics pertains to computers. As technology is developing, computers are becoming more relevant to the classroom setting. This means that there are other aspects that need to be evaluated such as the monitor, footrest, mouse, keyboard, viewing distances, and time at a computer. Since majority of schools have one computer lab, which is typically used by all students, the easiest modification to make sure every computer properly fits each student is to make sure everything on the desk is adjustable. The monitor and monitor arm, desktop tray, chair, and foot rests all should be able to be adjusted to the various sized children sitting in these seats. Having the flexibility of every seat and computer be able to adjust to the child sitting there is the best, ergonomic solution for computer labs.
If you think about it, the classroom is the first office you have and experience; it is a place of work. For about 6 + hours a day, children are in this environment. This also doesn’t take into account the time that they spend outside of school doing homework or playing video games at home, which are also similar situations. This large amount of time is even more of a reason to make sure that the different aspects of a classroom are following proper ergonomic trends. This is a very impressionable age so we should be instilling these healthy habits early. Who knows, maybe in the next few years classrooms will begin to be filled with sit stand desks or adjustable monitor arms to accommodate students of all size.