This post from 2013 has been slightly edited February 2019 to remain up to date as well as connect you to other related articles!
I’ve received a very exciting letter:
My hubby is a 5th grade teacher. He is also the Coordinator for the Learning Experiences Design Team (LEDT) for Project Zero: Agency by Design through Harvard. This year, he has decided to create an alignment-optimizing classroom, as furniture-free as possible, as part of the curriculum.
We're thinking :
- DIY floor cushions
- standing desks (but only to accommodate 1/3 the class at a time)
- lessons while walking
Additionally, he uses a progressive constructivist model of educating and is going to facilitate a student query into culturally-informed postures. Any input or crazy ideas? Whatever you got would be welcomed at any time.
Do I have ideas? DO I HAVE IDEAS? Yes, I, of course, have ideas. But what about your ideas? I am only one person where you are also one person. Our single persons times many other single persons, means that collectively we are one. One with a lot of ideas.
P.S. You can tell your husband I am available to teach Philosophy. And Math.
Anyhow, I’ve asked if they would like me to share this request with all of you as you (and you and you and you, over there) are some of the most superb thinkers I’ve never had the great fortune to meet, and have GREAT ideas.
Here's more from their plan:
School starts Sept. 3rd, with desks. This way, the students do a real-time makeover of the classroom in conjunction for learning why they are going to move the desks out and their bodies into a healthier learning environment. Additionally, his 18 students get to take ownership of their new 'Furniture-Free' classroom with DIY projects through creative reuse.
People should get as idealistic and fantasy-zy as possible. Let's put everything on the proverbial table and then the kids can use these ideas to what will suit them practically on the floor.
I am so excited!
Aren’t you excited!
Here are some of my ideas:
1. I'm totally donating a "Think Outside the Chair Poster" for each kid to have at home ON THE FRIDGE to help engage their family and friends in dialog. (I swear this photo was not staged. Every child, big or small, who visits our home stops to study this poster without prompting.)
2. I like data collection. Create a basic "lab" on how to collect body position data (i.e. how to describe body position in general). They could have a notebook that tracked their observation of their parents, peers, other school faculty, the bus driver, etc. This would begin to tune their eyes to looking at the body's axes more specifically. Comparative data could be collected from old National Geographic magazines (I just sold my early 1900s collection!) to get a chance to "collect data" from other cultures— although important to note that the magazines are potentially influenced via the posing commands of the photographer. Old books and magazines are great records of shoe-wearing, body positioning, etc. This collection of data could go on throughout the year.
3. Comparing postural change within a culture—still with the magazine images—a timeline of sorts? Comparing images of body postures frequented by current teen stars compared to images of teens from the Old West, for example? Classic Time magazine images of children in factories. Plotting these images on a timeline around the top of the classroom with notes on where the Industrial, Car, and Computer Tech revolution started. The more "convenience" milestones they can generate, the more they will consider it. A discussion of the pendulum—from more natural, outdoor movements to industrial, repetitive movements, and to "texting" or smart-device movements.
4. Math—especially percentages—is a great way to address position frequency. The number of minutes one stays in a fixed position, whether it be sitting in a chair or standing or squatting on the ground—is really important to this larger picture. Learning to convert time into a percentage of a day is helpful.
5. Swap the President's Fitness Test for something a little more applicable to long-term body function. I'd be happy to make this protocol over for you if you'd like; your kids can still "train" for a required movement test but in a more natural way (movement breaks that are shorter but more frequent) and can learn WHY what they are doing matters beyond the "being fit=being healthy" message that is fairly general.
6. Containers and loads. How does carrying all your stuff in a pack compare to carrying it all in your arms? Are all 8 pound loads the same? What does carrying it all on your back allow? Arm movement. What does carrying it all on your back NOT allow? The use of other parts. What if, instead of Egg Babies (wait, is that 5th grade?) they were given a reprieve from their packs for a week but had to carry (with their arms) a 5-pound bolster everywhere on campus for a few days—don't get caught without it. This is a great way for a child to grasp early on that a load to the body isn't a load EVERYWHERE on the body.
OK, I'M JUST GETTING STARTED AND NOW I TOTALLY WANT TO BE A TEACHER.
Find more articles on kid movement, sitting, and classroom design here!