Can Classrooms Be Improved By Simply Fixing the Furniture?

Posted by Amanda M. Fairbanks

Chances are, if you're reading this right now and are in any way comfortable, you're not sitting in a classroom.

As part of their crowdsourced contest to redesign the American classroom, the folks over at Slate have received a flurry of submissions on redesigning the school desk, including standing desks, padded chairs, and adjustable furniture, among other ideas.

School systems give short shrift to the physical needs of their students in other ways—they use school buses without seatbelts, send backpacks home filled with weighty textbooks, cut gym class to the bone, run jocks through sometimes life-threatening football drills, and serve junk food as part of the federal nutrition program. So it's not surprising that few districts have bothered to improve their furniture, but it's dismaying. "We've seen in adults that if you put them in the right chair, their performance increases," says Jack Dennerlein, a senior lecturer on ergonomics and safety at Harvard University.

The same must hold true for kids. So, with their productivity, comfort, and generalized happiness in mind, how might we better design classroom furniture?

Photo (cc) via Flicker user greenkozi.