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Are standing desks appropriate for the classroom or schools?

The advantages of flexible seating and standing desks for students are two of the hottest topics in classroom design. The fact is that most students prefer to be standing or moving, and sitting for long periods is against their nature. Stand up desks for students are seen as a solution to make classrooms more aligned with the students’ natural tendencies.

While many students and teachers want the additional choices that a standing desk classroom provides, others have concerns about changing traditional rows of fixed desks. One of the concerns is that standing desks could be disruptive for other students or distracting for teachers. A study supported by the National Institutes of Health examined this question, and found that students in standing desk classrooms are able to engage in learning at least as actively as students using more traditional seated desks.

Are there standing desks or sit/stand desks for children?

By reducing the dimensions and including safety features, several manufacturers have designed a standing desk for kids specifically. For the youngest kids, a student model can be beneficial. In addition, a number of standing desks on the market can be well adapted to the classroom, provided they meet classroom criteria. There are a few things to look for in a great standing desk for kids: 

  • Safety features like collision detection
  • Ergonomics, or the ability to support multiple postures
  • Durability
  • Adjustment range to accommodate various body sizes
  • Flexible features like casters for easy rearrangement
  • Adjustment mechanism that is easy for smaller hands to operate

What are the benefits of standing desks for students?

Any veteran teacher knows that students fidget and move around a lot at their desks, even while they might be fully engaged and focused in their work. Standing desks answer the need to be able to move by allowing students to change postures while still involved in desk work. Some teachers even use desk height transitions to help with transitions between classroom activities. Research exploring the benefits of standing desks for students has come up with a range of ways that standing desks can help kids.

Do standing desks have physical health benefits for kids?

Given that American students spend an average of 4.5 hours a day sitting in school, in addition to sedentary time after school, kids today are sitting about 85% of their waking hours. Standing desks offer a key opportunity to move more throughout the day. While it’s not the same as an hour of PE, these small movements add up.

Core strength

According to an article in the Washington Post, our students’ sedentary lifestyles have led to an epidemic of poor core strength and balance. Compared to children from the early 1980s, only 1 in 12 students today had normal core strength and balance. Standing desks, in combination with other items like balance boards and balance ball chairs, are part of the solution.

For maximum benefit, the desk should support an ergonomic position, meaning the legs, torso, neck, and head should all be aligned when standing. The height should be adjusted so the student’s wrists are straight and elbows bent 90 degrees.

Obesity

With childhood obesity hovering around 19% in the United States, schools are eager for any way to help reverse the trend. Standing desks can help by allowing movement during the school day. Children who move more during the school day may extend the behavior to their time at home.

Burning a few more calories in the classroom also helps. In a study in the American Journal of Public Health, standing desks were found to exponentially increase calories burned in a first grade classroom. Heavier children expended even more calories, and were found to burn 32% more calories standing than sitting. 

Behavior & focus

Another question is how standing desks affect focus. Anecdotally, teachers often observe that the need for movement in the classroom often is expressed in bathroom requests, fidgeting, and a host of disruptive behaviors. Standing desks help channel that need for movement into more acceptable motion. Having the ability to adjust their desk whenever they like also helps kids keep from zoning after sitting for a long stretch.

The same American Journal of Public Health study mentioned above also looked at how standing desks can help students focus in the classroom. The researchers found that students showed increased attention, on-task behavior, alertness and classroom engagement. 

Do standing desks also help students with ADHD or overactive students? According to the CDC’s latest statistics, around 9.4% of all children in the United States have been diagnosed with ADHD. For these students, moving and fidgeting is part of their day, an urge they are not able to resist. Some practitioners suggest that one contributing factor for the increase in ADHD diagnoses may be the increased amount of time students spend sitting. And the longer they are stuck in a sitting desk and can’t move, the more their attention degrades.

It makes sense that fidgeting and moving helps regulate ADHD symptoms and improve learning. Standing desks for ADHD students give these students the opportunity to move their whole body more frequently. By allowing movement, standing desks can be some of the best desks for kids with ADHD, because movement helps them focus on the immediate task.

How do standing desks or sit/stand desks compare to flexible seating? The main advantages of flexible seating are that it allows students a voice and a choice in the classroom. Often that looks like a variety of non-traditional seats for various postures, and removing rows of desks. 

In general, a standing desk could be considered complementary to flexible seating. Both offer the benefits of allowing students to move naturally to more comfortable positions and simply lend themselves to frequent adjustments. Several types of seating combine well with a student standing desk. Whether it’s an adjustable height stool or chair, or a stability ball, or a balance board, the combination of a standing desk with flexible seating brings out the advantages of both.

When writing and other traditional desk work are part of the classroom, an adjustable school desk can be a perfect component of a flexible model. Some standing school desks are even available with casters, adding an extra mobility component to create a completely flexible classroom.

Do standing school desks have educational and learning benefits?

Students love to have options and choices. If they have options for how they sit and work in class, they take ownership of the space. Many educators also report seeing enhanced group collaboration when students have a break from sitting. A chest height desk can stimulate discussions during collaborative work time.

There have been a number of studies on adjustable desks or standing desks vs standard sitting desks used in schools that show the learning benefits of standing desks. A small preliminary study at Texas A&M found that the ability to stand at a desk significantly improved executive function and working memory in a group of high school students, while another study found increases in academic engagement among elementary students.

Are standing desks as durable as standard school desks?

Students can be hard on classroom furniture. Material quality and sturdy construction are key to a desk’s ability to withstand classroom use. Standing desks for students should ideally be constructed with a sturdy steel frame and a durable work surface like laminated wood. To ensure durability, choose a desk that has been ruggedly designed and tested to ANSI/BIFMA X5.5 standards.

How do they compare in price?

Because of the height adjustment mechanism, high quality standing desks are generally priced higher than a standard classroom desk. A well-constructed classroom desk is a lasting investment that will have a daily impact on a number of individual students over the years. 

Not all students are the same size – what is the range of adjustability for students?

For both K-12 and higher education environments, furniture in a variety in sizes is needed. Even within the same classroom, students can be at various stages of growth, different ages, or different body sizes. The benefit of a height adjustable standing desk is that it can accommodate the child who hits a growth spurt just as well at the beginning of the school year as it does at the end. The same cannot be said for shoes.

Can students still have storage at their desk?

Students always have a range of school supplies and books along with their laptops and other items. Some standing desks are designed with a drawer under the desk, or can be modified to incorporate hooks and pencil holders. If a minimalist desk surface is used, other classroom storage methods with chairs, shelves, or cabinets can help keep students organized and reduce clutter. 

Are there standing tables for group learning?

Some standing tables are specifically designed for group learning. A few educational furniture manufacturers make individual triangular shaped height adjustable desks that can be pushed together into a circle or other configurations. Most often, collaboration tables or activity tables are simply standing desks with larger size work surfaces that can accommodate several students at once to encourage teamwork and collaboration. 

 

Can adjustable desks or standing desks be beneficial for teachers as well?

Teachers can also benefit from having the option to sit or stand at will. A smaller desk with casters works just as well for lectures as for grading papers. 

In the demanding teaching profession, a standing desk can be part of the solution to create a healthier lifestyle. Some of the benefits of a teacher standing desk include improvements in:

  • Back pain
  • Energy
  • Calories burned
  • Core strength
  • Heart health and blood pressure
  • Blood sugar


There is little doubt that standing desks are beneficial for kids in some of the same ways they are beneficial for adults. When it comes to the classroom, it’s useful to think about specifically how standing desks can benefit students, and find creative ways to increase classroom use of standing desks.

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