By Jenny Quill, contributing writer
Lake Bluff and Lake Forest schools have started using standing desks in classrooms, giving students the opportunity to literally think on their feet.
The desks can currently be found in classrooms at Lake Bluff Elementary School, Lake Bluff Middle School, Everett Elementary, Cherokee Elementary, Sheridan Elementary, and Deer Path Middle School.
Standing desks are believed to help increase focus and engagement in the classroom. And while they’re particularly valuable for students with learning disabilities, all students can benefit from their use.
“Standing desks benefit all students, not just those with learning disabilities, Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity (ADHD), or sensory integration needs,” said Sue Barkhausen, Learning Resource Teacher at Everett Elementary School, which has 12 standing desks. “Current research supports the fact that students who use standing desks exhibit increased on-task behavior, alertness, and attentiveness during academic instruction.”
Amanda Willey, a third grade teacher at Lake Bluff Elementary School, where all classrooms for grades 2 through 5 have two desks apiece, has witnessed the benefits firsthand.
“Stand-up desks have been a great addition to my classroom,” said Willey. “They help students focus and stay engaged in their learning.”
In addition to increasing focus and alertness, standing desks provide an outlet for all that youthful, excess energy by allowing students to fidget freely, without disrupting others, thanks to a moveable footrest positioned across the bottom.
“The ‘fidget bar,’ or pendulum swinging footrest, allows students who benefit from movement the ability to move in a way that still allows them access to the materials they need and the learning they are eager to do,” said Barkhausen.
The desks also provide teachers with different classroom instruction opportunities, whether working with individuals or small groups.
“It isn’t uncommon to see a teacher delivering small group instruction at a standup desk or two standup desks pushed together,” said Nathan Blackmer, principal, Lake Bluff Middle School. “The advantage is that students can more easily see the demonstration and everyone is at the same level instead of the teacher bending over the students or vise versa.”
Desks equipped with the movement bar and storage cost approximately $230 apiece. Grants courtesy of the non-profit Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Learning Differences Association (LDA) have paid for many of the schools’ standing desks.
“We originally submitted a grant to the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Learning Differences Association (LDA) for the purchase of eight desks,” said Roehrick. “We placed two desks in four different classrooms in order to determine if they were a useful tool for learning. We received positive feedback from teachers and students regarding the desks, so we requested another grant the next school year through the LDA, which was approved.”
Lake Bluff Middle School’s standing desk pilot program was so successful, said Blackmer, the school decided to purchase two desks for every academic classroom within the building.
“They turned out to be a huge hit with some of our students who benefit from opportunity to stand or move around a little as they learn,” said Blackmer.