Many of you will remember how swinging on your chair in class or leaning back to delicately balance it on two legs would make the teacher either white with panic, or red with fury. Back then students were expected to sit still in class.
Much has changed since then. Formulaic school classrooms have been replaced with more dynamic spaces that support active learning. New innovative and award – winning school buildings have been built, vocational learning is back in the spotlight and technology has proliferated every part of our lives to make learning more immerse, interactive and limitless than ever before.
Yet despite all this movement in the world of education, we are still too sedentary – a fact that is costing us our health. Of course, this issue isn’t exclusive to the education, it’s affecting the nation as a whole and it’s given rise to a new movement focused on making us more active. Both Get Britain Standing and the Active Working Summit are working to spread the message that just two hours of movement or standing in the working day can dramatically reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes and even cancer.
These risks are very real for today’s learners too, for the average child spends only has a few hours of movement each their day – perhaps walking to school and compulsory PE. Most of the time will be spent seated – whether that’s in lessons, on the bus, playing video games, doing homework or watching TV. The message is clear- we need to move more and be sat less.
For educators this presents some new challenges and perhaps even a new set of responsibilities. In the same way that teachers plan lessons to comprise different styles of learning, lessons should also promote different types of activity and movement. The rise of sit stand desks in the corporate world highlights the principle of combining sitting and standing activities and the improved concentration and wellbeing benefits this delivers. While these desks haven’t yet filtered into mainstream education, trials are underway to see how sit stand classroom solutions can improve learning, health and engagement too.
In practical terms you can go some way to address this lack of movement by looking for ways to incorporate it into the teaching methodology. Perhaps certain tasks can be completed standing or you can introduce ‘standing lessons’ into your timetable – just 60 minutes standing per day can make a real difference and start changing behaviours for the better.
More collaborative or role-play sessions could be used to get students out of their seats and working in teams. Maybe replace some of the soft seating in your breakout areas with standing height tables to stop all breaks being spent slumped on sofas. You could even incorporate something physical into homework tasks or actively encourage students to use lunchtime and breaks for exercise. Your school or college might want to encourage ‘active sitting’ which is the principle of changing position, moving your body and keeping active all while seated. With the right furniture choices you can help keep students comfortable and focused too.
As a nation we must move more if we are to avoid serious long-term health problems. The biggest challenge relates to breaking people’s bad habits and making movement second.
To find out more about the education revolution, download our whitepaper When Education and the Workplace Collide, which is full of guidance and advice: