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Wednesday, Sep. 2, 2015

Stinky classrooms and standing desks

Thursday, October 18, 2012

I watched one of those cable shows recently where bargain hunters search for antiques that someone, somewhere will pay top dollar just to eventually shove it into the depths of their barn. On this particular show, the hunters found a school desk, one which looked similar to the one I had placed my derriere in for several years as I learned many of life's basics.

You may recall such desks. They were one-piece and no larger than a TV tray attached, complete with a little carved out groove where you placed you No. 2 pencil. The seat, which forced you to be a contortionist in order to maneuver into place, doubled as a locker for your books, snacks, love notes, coat, gloves and ear muffs. It was a dangerous place too, as thieves often visited your seat at night -- or during recess -- and stole items, usually that book report you had ready to give to the teacher. Or was it just me?

Those desks could also protect us from an F5 tornado, or even better, nuclear fallout, if you didn't have time to make it to the hall. Sitting against the wall while holding a science book over your head was the true way to stave off nuclear warfare.

I have not been in many school music departments since my elementary days. Who am I kidding? We didn't have a music department. We had a trunk in the corner of the room where you prayed you were chosen to play something cool like the drum, which was basically a tambourine on a stick. You help it with one hand and held one drumstick in the other. That was still far better than being stuck with the triangle. If you ever had to hold the small metal, well, triangle, and tap it with the small metal stick in front of your peers, you know the meaning of humiliation.

We were encouraged to run like crazy kids during recess, or what we called P.E. (physical education). We would return for about one class before lunch. By lunchtime the sweat had dried on our clothes and the whole classroom smelled something like an NFL locker room without an air conditioner to sweep the odor away. Of course, with some of the food I remember at my elementary, perhaps not being able to smell the food over the body odor was a plus. There was obviously no Italian working in our cafeteria as we had the worst spaghetti -- way too often -- on planet earth.

But, for the most part, we were fit.

Four first grade classrooms at a Texas elementary school were recently equipped with desks that allowed students to stand or sit on a stool. The thought -- and hope -- is that the children who stand at their desks will burn more calories than those who sit all day, thus helping fight childhood obesity.

Neither the students or teachers were told the reason for the standing desks. A six-week study found that 70 percent of the students never used their stools, and the other 30 percent stood the majority of the time.

So much for wanting your students to sit and be still.

The American Journal of Public Health published an article stating that adults were at fault for wanting kids to be "sedentary."

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines sedentary as "doing or requiring much sitting; characterized by a lack of physical activity." There's that, but to hit home with the point, there is "what Kyle does on college football Saturdays." Yes, on such days, I perfect the art of being sedentary.

"... Most students want to be standing, to be moving," said Monica Wendel, co-author of the study and director of the Center for Community Health Development at the Texas A&M Health Science Center. "They don't want to sit still. It's against their nature. We are the ones who teach them to be sedentary.

The research found that students who were particularly heavy, those in the 85th percentile for weight based on age and gender, burned 32 percent more calories than similar students that used traditional desks.

For those that wonder how a child can remain focused while standing, the study showed that standing "improved the students' attention, on-task behavior, alertness and classroom behavior."