Chairs


There’s a motif that strangely kept recurring in my Twitter and news feeds a while ago: chairs.
Many of these links were, of course, business related, as productivity mavens recognize that how one sits and what one sits upon have an effect upon how one works.
Mashable finally ran an article that focused on classrooms. After all, it is children who spend hours every year sitting in poorly designed chairs that could be rightfully claimed to be the polar opposite of “ergonomic.”
This concern for the quality of seating is strongly linked to a perspective of a school as an ecosystem. When we think about the impact of the learning environment on student achievement, what could be more fundamental then the manner in which students sit?
Such concern goes beyond simple ergonomics. Pedagogy hinges on how students are seated. Some seating enables flexible grouping. Some seating is bolted down in rows. At Exeter, a special round table known as the Harkness Table is used, reflecting their commitment to discussion based pedagogy.

Safety is another concern. Students who experience crisis will grab anything in their vicinity that can be used to express their frustration, which typically involves throwing chairs. I’ve even had a student try to throw a desk at me (it was a bit too overladen with workbooks to go very far). Hence why some schools still feature the seemingly medieval feature of bolted down desks.

So what is the ideal seating for a student? Both ergonomics and safety should be the primary considerations. But whatever designers come up with, the next concern is, of course, the pricing. As Megan Garber notes in her Mashable article:

Ray [the name of the chair mentioned in the article], in its simple, plastic, IKEA-esque glory, is currently gaining traction where you’d expect it to: Scandinavia. And also Germany. And also the U.K., where Dennehy’s company, Perch, offers a mid-range version of the chair that’s cheaper than the original. 

So could Ray make its way into U.S. classrooms? It’s hard to see already cash-strapped administrators making the investment — though with the new emphasis on making schools healthier places for kids, the idea of ergonomic classrooms could gain more traction now than it might have a few years ago.

Ah yes. Of course, when we get to the US, pricing becomes THE primary concern.

What sort of seating do you believe public schools should offer our children?

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