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B E S T P R A C T I C E S A T W O R K

Yanina C. Jimenez

Flexible and
Alternative
Seating in
Classrooms
uch about schooling has

M changed since the 1800s.


The curricula, seating
configurations, and
discipline methods have
changed; and so have books, tech-
nology, and many other resources.
unfortunately, one thing has not
changed: the amount of time young
students are required to sit in the
same chair.
Just imagine, during the school
year, being seated for about seven bined with readings from Counsels to dents come to school knowing that
hours on a hard chair every single day. Parents, Teachers, and Students about they will be learning in a movement-
imagine being 7 years old and being the need to preserve mental strength friendly environment. They need and
told to remain seated and still while and exercise all organs while studying2 deserve to feel at home. after all,
doing your work! While for genera- led me to consider how i might inte- school is their second home!
tions students have been expected to grate flexible seating options for my
do this, current research in the areas students. i truly believe that in educat- Students Are Sitting Too Much
of movement and learning shows that ing young people, teachers need to Too many hours of sitting is
children need and deserve flexible and combine physical and mental activity.3 dangerous to children’s health. health
alternative seating in an environment so i decided to join the many teachers experts and children’s advocates
where they spend almost the whole globally who are changing the way recommend that teachers and parents
day five days a week. children learn at school. become more aware of how much
recent reports on the dangers of as a teacher, i believe that provid- time children spend each day in a
sitting for long periods of time1 com- ing flexible, soft seating alternatives seated position. Most students spend
for children will enable them to move, between six and eight hours per day
release their energy, and feel happier
and more comfortable while doing
their work. now, just imagine that stu-

http://jae.adventist.org The Journal of Adventist Education • October- December 2016 51


52 The Journal of Adventist Education • October- December 2016 http://jae.adventist.org
sitting in various classrooms. and rooms, not only for students, but also cide where they will work each day
some only have a few minutes of for teachers. he says, “Teachers need and can switch places based on their
physical activity, such as recess and to engage students in a greater variety required tasks. she plans carefully to
physical education, built into their of postures, including walking, lying ensure sufficient seating options to ac-
school curriculum.4 if children and down, moving, leaning against a wall commodate her students’ needs. at
young adults don’t move often during or desk, perching, or even squat- the beginning of the year, her students
the day, their risk for diseases such as ting.”11 a slanted desk ensures less fa- spend an entire day exploring the vari-
diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and tigue, better concentration, and less ous seating choices. after that, she
other metabolic diseases increases.5 eye strain. students experience less lets them self-select their seating daily.
Merely exercising at recess or during painful electromyogram activity in the she says: “one big note: students
physical education does not prevent lower back when they use slanted know i always reserve the right to
the physiological changes that occur work surfaces instead of flat ones.12 move them. . . . They know the work
as a result of prolonged sitting.6 Teachers should encourage children isn’t optional, but choosing where
visualize a typical classroom. What to stand up and move around at least they work is.”17
are students doing? sitting. James every hour. a stroll around the class-
levine,7 co-director of the Mayo clinic room can help them retain informa- What Flexible Seating Looks Like
and the arizona state university obe- tion13 and better regulate their flexible and alternative seating can
sity initiative and author of the book moods.14 be accomplished in a variety of ways.
Get Up! Why Your Chair Is Killing You alternative seating provides stu- Teachers must ensure that the stu-
and What You Can Do About It, stud- dents with opportunities to move, yet dents’ postures and movements do not
ies how prolonged sitting affects remain on task. studies in areas such impede their learning or that of their
health. his research shows several as non-exercise activity thermogenesis peers. seating options include the fol-
changes take place in one’s phys- (energy expended in activities such as lowing:
iology—within the muscles and fidgeting, typing, or anything that • on the floor (carpeted or tiled);
cells—after sitting for a long time. he does not include sleeping, eating, or • on/under a blanket, pillow,
summarized his findings by saying: sports-like activities) demonstrate that or lap-sized bean bag;
“inactivity—sitting—is not supposed reimagining classroom spaces can pro- • on a couch or futon;
to be a way of life.”8 vide ways of keeping children moving • on various types of chairs includ-
and make teacher-student interaction ing easy chairs (low and high back),
The Solution easier.15 Papasan chairs, traditional wood
The solution seems to be less When Kayla delzer decided to reno- chairs, raised chairs, chairs on wheels
sitting and more moving overall. re- vate her classroom, even before she that spin, chairs that feel like they
thinking the classroom environment purchased a single item, she thought may tip (but don’t), chairs that are
and providing flexible and alternative about why she was taking this step. padded on the seat and/or the back,
seating options are ways to address she says, “if we truly want to prepare stools (with or without back sup-
the problem. Teachers can start by our students for the real world, we port), stools that move up and down,
having students simply stand rather need to put them in responsive, dy- and scoop rocker chairs;
than sit whenever they have the namic environments that reflect life • on large bouncy balls;
chance or think about ways to walk outside of a traditional classroom. and • standing; or even
while they work. The impact of what’s that life outside like? full of • lying down on their stomachs or
movement—even leisurely move- choices.” delzer remembers “ditching backs!18
ment—can be profound.9 her desks” to avoid “the cemetery ef-
Movement can boost the learning fect.”16 she cleared out tables, her Preparing for Implementation
process. eric Jensen’s article “Moving desk, several chairs, and file cabinets, implementing flexible seating
With the Brain in Mind”10 provides a and explored ways to redesign her arrangements in classrooms should be
strong rationale for keeping class- classroom. The result was a flexible a team effort between teachers and
rooms active. Brain research also con- seating plan and more open floor administrators. Parents should be noti-
firms that physical activity—moving, spaces to accommodate whole- and fied early that this approach will be
stretching, and walking—can actually small-group instruction; stand-and- implemented on a given classroom or
enhance the learning process. Jensen work tables; crate seats, stability ball schoolwide. This can be done through
protests against the sedentary class- chairs, core disks, and pillows. her letters, newsletters, open houses, or
room style and suggests a better way students now use work bins and sup-
to spend the long days in our class- ply baskets to store folders, math jour-
nals, and other personal items.
in delzer’s classroom, students de-

http://jae.adventist.org The Journal of Adventist Education • October- December 2016 53


Box 1. Helpful Resources

during parent-teacher meetings.19


To ensure that classroom proce- Flexible Seating and Student-centered Classroom Redesign
dures are consistent, teachers should Kayla Delzer presents several tips for successfully implementing flex-
take time to discuss, establish, and ible and alternative seating, including ideas for redesigning on a budget,
practice procedures and rules for ap-
classroom management, and best practices: http://www.edutopia.org/
propriate classroom movement. for
example, what classroom signals will blog/flexible-seating-student-centered-classroom-kayla-delzer.
be used to minimize noise or off-task
movement? What should students do Flexible Classrooms: Providing the Learning Environment That Kids
if they complete their assignment Need
early? What are the procedures for re- Administrators from Albemarle County Public Schools (Virginia) de-
arranging furniture? consistently mod-
scribe steps for implementation and how flexible seating helped in-
eling and engaging students in discus-
sions about classroom procedures will crease engagement and participation: http://www.edutopia.org/prac
help to ensure that the flexible seating tice/flexible-classrooms-providing-learning-environment-kids-need.
arrangement is successful.20
one teacher noted that in a flexible Rethinking the Classroom: Spaces Designed for Active and Engaged
seating plan, students took fewer un- Learning and Teaching
necessary trips to the bathroom and
Helpful suggestions for rethinking classroom design at the college
water fountains, and readily moved
when they needed to remain focused. and university level, including implementing flexible and alternative
Being able to move away from other seating: http://www.hermanmiller.com/research/solution-essays/
students who may have been distract- rethinking-the-classroom.html.
ing or bothering them resulted in a
lower incidence of quarreling and off- Design Tips for a Student-centered Classroom
task behavior.21 for flexible seating to
Sarah McKibben’s article in Association for Supervision and Cur-
produce this type of result, attention
must be given to classroom-manage- riculum Development’s Education Update titled “Get Rid of Rows! and
ment procedures. Other Tips for a Student-Centered Classroom” identifies six first steps
for redesigning the classroom: http://www/ascd.org/publications/
Flexible Seating in My Classroom: newsletters/education_update/jul16/vol58/num07/Get_Rid_of_Rows!
Reactions From Parents and Students _and_Other_Tips_for_a_Student-Centered_Classroom.aspx.
after securing support from my
school administration, i began by
communicating with parents through
e-mails and letters that described my
desire to incorporate flexible seating volved them in the decision-making tunity to claim the same seat twice
into my classroom. Their support was and executive-functioning process. every week. They also could choose to
overwhelming. although my students lie on their stomach or their back in
were unfamiliar with the term “flexi- Implementing New Seating designated areas of the classroom
ble seating,” as i described the ar- Arrangements whenever they felt like it, as long as
rangement and the reasons for the assembling the equipment was a that choice was helpful to their school
change, they were thrilled. Together, team effort (my family, students, and work. They knew they could choose
we started looking at pictures of seat- other volunteers). We logged many where to sit to feel more comfortable
ing options and brainstorming ideas hours planning, trying the new equip- or relaxed, but that the teacher could
for new decorations. We reflected ment, moving things around, improv- change their spots(s) if they became
about our sedentary habits and how ing the appearance of the classroom, distracted while doing their work. i
flexible seating could help us better writing thank-you notes to those who am proud to say that i have trusted my
concentrate and relax while doing our supported our fundraising, doing pre- students, and they have lived up to
work. My students participated in the sentations for visitors, and demon- my expectations.
fundraisers for the project, which gave strating how flexible seating works.
them a sense of ownership. i also in- after all the equipment was in Observations About Student Behavior
place, we needed to decide how to use over the past year, i have observed
it, so we came up with the plan of ro- that my students in the new seating
tations. every student had the oppor-

54 The Journal of Adventist Education • October- December 2016 http://jae.adventist.org


arrangement learned to act responsi- NOTES AND REFERENCES Kamon, “Posture and subjective evaluation
bly whether working individually or 1. Juststand.org, “The science of sitting at flat and slanted desks,” Human Factors
and standing”: http://www.juststand.org/ 18:1 (february 1976):15-26. More recent
collectively. They became more aware
tabid/636/language/en-us/default.aspx studies address similar concerns: Mark e.
of their own learning styles and of the
summarizes key findings on the topic and Benden et al., “The impact of stand-biased
spot(s) that would guarantee them provides links to Pdf articles, studies, and desks in classrooms on calorie expenditure
deeper concentration, according to the case studies with applications to education. in children,” American Journal of Public
type of work they had been assigned. i unless otherwise noted, all Websites in the Health 101:8 (august 2011):1433-1436.
noticed that my class became quieter endnotes were accessed september 1, 2015. 13. howard Gardner, The Disciplined
and more focused on their work. They 2. ellen G. White, Counsels to Parents, Mind (new York: simon & schuster, 1999).
Teachers, and Students (Mountain view, 14. robert e. Thayer, The Origin of Every-
had the opportunity to become more
calif.: Pacific Press, 2011), 281. day Moods: Managing Energy, Tension, and
relaxed and thus maintained better 3. she notes that many life-long diseases Stress (oxford university Press, 1997).
focus with the flexible seating arrange- and illnesses begin in the school room where 15. nicole Brekke-sisk, “standing-room
ment. They didn’t have to move out of poorly constructed seats obstruct the func- only in classroom of the future,” Mayo
their place as much as they used to, tioning of the lungs, heart, nervous system, Alumni 42:3 (summer 2006):3-5: http://
since they could move in place in- and lead to poor thinking. see ellen G. www.mayo.edu/pmts/mc4400-mc4499/
White, True Education (nampa, idaho: Pa- mc4409-0906.pdf.
stead. This helped everybody to better
cific Press, 2000), 125-129. 16. Kayla delzer, “Why the 21st century
focus while enjoying more tranquility
4. health corps, “sitting Too long is Bad classroom May remind You of starbucks”
in the classroom. for Kids’ health” (november 2015): https:// (october 2015): https://www.edsurge.com/
although this project did not di- www.healthcorps.org/sitting-too-long-is-bad- news/2015-10-01-why-the-21st-century-
rectly target student learning, it cer- for-kids-health/. classroom-may-remind-you-of-starbucks;
tainly impacted it. i have observed im- 5. len Kravitz, “Too Much sitting is haz- ________, “flexible seating and student-cen-
proved student attitudes toward school, ardous to Your health?” IDEA Fitness Journal tered classroom redesign,” Edutopia (april
6:9 (october 2009):14-17: http://www.unm. 2016): http://www.edutopia.org/blog/flexi
the classroom environment, belongings
edu/~lkravitz/article%20folder/sitting ble-seating-student-centered-classroom-
in the classroom, school work, team unM.html. kayla-delzer; Tom Murray, “Beyond ditching
spirit, classmates, teamwork, and the 6. Gretchen reynolds, “sitting is Bad for the desks: nine creative Ways to avoid the
teacher! future plans include studying children, Too,” New York Times (september cemetery effect for all classrooms” (august
the effects of flexible and alternative 2015): http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/ 2015): http://thomascmurray.com/cemetery
seating on learning outcomes. 09/23/sitting-is-bad-for-children-too/; ali effect/.
McManus et al., “impact of Prolonged sitting 17. delzer, “Why the 21st century class-
although the world is changing,
on vascular function in Young Girls,” Experi- room May remind You of starbucks.”
many classrooms remain much the
mental Physiology 100:11 (november 2015): 18. albemarle county Public schools,
same. Year after year, students experi- 1379-1387. doi: 10.1113/eP085355. “flexible classrooms: Providing the learning
ence the same learning environments. 7. Mayo clinic, “What are the risks of environment Kids need,” Edutopia (august
rethinking how we use classroom sitting Too Much?” answers from James a. 2015): http://www.edutopia.org/practice/
space is one way to help students ex- levine, M.d., Ph.d. (2015): http://www. flexible-classrooms-providing-learning-envi
ercise choice and control over their mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult- ronment-kids-need; Jennifer Gonzalez,
health/expert-answers/sitting/faq-20058005. “classroom eye candy: a flexible-seating
own learning. ✐
8. ibid. Paradise” (november 2015): http://www.
9. ibid.; ________, “non-exercise activity cultofpedagogy.com/flexible-classroom/;
Thermogenesis (neaT),” Best Practice and lindsey Petlak, “functional, flexible class-
Yanina C. Jimenez, B.S., teaches Research Clinical Endocrinology and Metabo- room seating options” (november 2015):
Grades 1-4 at Downers Grove Adventist lism 16:4 (december 2002):679-702. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/
School, Downers Grove, Illinois. She 10. eric Jensen, “Moving With the Brain top-teaching/2015/11/functional-flexible-
in Mind,” Educational Leadership 58:3 (no- classroom-seating-options.
earned her bachelor’s degree in educa-
vember 2000):34-37. 19. amy emnett, “letter to Parents about
tion from Universidad Adventista del
11. ibid., 36. flexible seating” (2015): http://mrsemnetts
Plata (River Plate Adventist University) 12. for many years, the impact of posture class.weebly.com/alternative-seating.html.
in Entre Rios, Argentina, and is cur- on behavior has been of interest to educa- 20. carol ann Tomlinson, “strategies for
rently finishing a Master’s degree in tion researchers. Two foundational studies Managing a differentiated classroom,” in
Curriculum and Instruction at Andrews are J. a. easterbrook, “The effect of emotion How to Differentiate Instruction in Mixed-
University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. on cue utilization and the organization of ability Classrooms, 2nd ed. (alexandria, va.:
Behavior,” Psychology Review 66:3 (May ascd, 2001):32-38: http://www.ascd.org/
Visit her blogs for more information,
1959):183-201; and M. eastman and e. publications/books/101043/chapters/strate
ideas, and resources for teachers who gies-for-Managing-a-differentiated-class
are interested in starting a flexible room.aspx.
classroom: https://flexibleseatingin 21. Brekke-sisk, “standing-room only in
classrooms.wordpress.com/ and https:// classroom of the future,” 3.
wecelebrate learning.wordpress.com/.
Her e-mail: yjimenez@ilcsda.org.

http://jae.adventist.org The Journal of Adventist Education • October- December 2016 55