Ergonomics in the Classroom: Creating a Positive Learning Environment

IMG_7131When you think of ergonomics in the workplace, you probably think about office settings. One occupation that is often forgotten about when it comes to workplace health and safety is teaching. Teachers are on their feet almost all day, from five to seven hours at a time, running from desk to desk, kneeling, squatting, and reaching all over the place. There’s no wonder roughly 40 percent of teachers experience low back pain, and 30 percent of teachers experience shoulder pain, according to recent studies. And teachers aren’t the only ones in pain. Students too feel achy backs, legs, and necks while sitting at their desks all day.

These alarming statistics show why ergonomics matter when it comes to classroom learning. Ergonomics is the study of designing a workplace that meets a worker’s needs and aims to increase comfort, which in turn will increase productivity and satisfaction. If you’re a teacher experiencing any discomfort or have students complaining about pain, it may be time to make a change to your classroom. Here’s what you need to know about incorporating ergonomics into your classroom.

Ergonomic Classroom for Teachers

There’s more to teaching than meets the eye. Grading papers, running down the hall to make lunch duty, conferencing with parents after school. These busy workdays can take a toll on a teacher’s body, especially when they have to stand in uncomfortable dress shoes on concrete floors. If you’re a teacher, here’s how you can create an ergonomic workspace:

  • Place an anti-fatigue floor mat at the front of the classroom that you can stand on when giving classroom instruction, using your interactive whiteboard, or reading to the class. An ergonomic floor mat will make standing on hard surfaces more bearable by absorbing shock and reducing foot fatigue and back pain.
  • Invest in an ergonomic chair. This means your desk chair should allow your feet to touch the ground with your knees at a 90-degree angle and have properly adjusted armrests that allow your elbows to grade papers and type at a right angle.
  • If you use technology in the classroom, such as teaching with iPads or Google Chromebooks, you want to be able to utilize them at eye level. There are numerous iPad stands and computer stands you can place in your classroom that put your devices at the correct height, so you don’t have to crane your neck in awkward positions or hold your device while multitasking.

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Ergonomic Classroom for Students

Now that you have your ergonomic workspace set up, it’s time to create an ergonomic classroom for your students. If your students are uncomfortable in their seats, you will notice they are fidgety, distracted, and possibly causing disruptive behaviour.

To create a positive learning environment, you need to ensure your students have the necessary equipment to promote learning. If they’re comfortable, you’ll notice that your students not only pay attention to your lessons more, but will have better engagement and increased involvement. Here’s how you can transform your classroom into an environment that’s conducive to learning:

  • Invest in standing desks. While you’re on your feet all day teaching, your students are in their seats all day sitting. Sitting can be just as painful as standing all day, which is why placing standing desks throughout your classroom for students who need it will be a major help.

With standing desks, students with learning disabilities such as ADHD and autism might exhibit increased focus and attention. Studies on standing desks found standing desks have plenty of health benefits, such as a reduced risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and diabetes.

  • Technology is changing the way students are taught, and most classrooms now require students to use technology to learn. If your students are in a computer lab multiple times a day or throughout the week or use iPads in the classroom, invest in ergonomic keyboards and ergonomic mice that adjust, and have students sit in ergonomic chairs. Students grow at varying stages, which means one-size fits all furniture and equipment isn’t helpful for students.

Additionally, these tech items will be beneficial for all students, especially those with sensorimotor disabilities who need adjustable equipment that works for their bodies and movements.

  • Another way to incorporate ergonomics into your classroom is through movement. As previously stated, sitting for long hours can reduce attention spans. Allow your students to get up and move. Make them do a few jumping jacks or stretches. And, don’t make them lug large and clunky textbooks home and back for homework. Heavy backpacks can cause back pain and discomfort, which can lead to further health issues down the line.

The Bottom Line

Classroom budgets are tight. But, applying for grants or asking your school administrator or superintendent to consider the health of you, teachers, and your students can help you get the funds to transform your classroom into a positive learning environment that considers the needs of each and every student and teacher. No one is built the same, which is why incorporating ergonomic furniture and equipment that fits every body type will promote growth for all, cognitively and physically.

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