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Stand-up desks at Harmon School aid student concentration

by BOB GAETJENS | REPORTER Published: September 14, 2016 1:00 AM
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Aurora -- Anyone who spends the day sitting at a desk at work can understand a change in pace might help productivity.

That applies to students as well, according to Harmon School health and physical education teacher John Farrell, whose classroom includes 14 stand-up desks.

He also has bike pedals that fit under regular desks in his classroom.

"Research tells us when we're moving, our brain is making connections," he said. "That's one of the reasons people run before work."

Farrell also said there are benefits to changing posture throughout the school day.

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"Standing the whole time probably wouldn't be great for the body, either," he said. "Kids should have a choice."

Several stand-up desks also are distributed across the school in other classrooms, including three that were built by Shawn Reilly, Harmon's technology education teacher, said Farrell, who would ultimately like to see each classroom have stand-up desks.

"I think half and half in a classroom would be perfect," he said. "That provides almost everybody the opportunity to choose what they're doing."

The Aurora Schools Foundation has contributed $3,231 toward buying the stand-up desks, which Farrell said cost about $400 apiece.

"The Aurora Schools Foundation grant program is designed to enrich the student experience by providing support for innovative, imaginative, and creative programs, experiences or opportunities that would not otherwise be possible within the school budget," said Nykole Morgenroth, a trustee of the foundation.

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"We admire Mr. Farrell's dedication to a learning approach that focuses on the 'whole student.' Research shows that standing in a learning environment actually improves attention, on-task behavior, alertness, and classroom engagement. We are thrilled to be part of this exciting endeavor."

Farrell said five desks were donated by a parent who wishes to remain anonymous.

Depending on the activity, the pedals or the desk might work better, said Farrell.

"THE PEDAL bikes I encourage them to use when they're trying to think of something or come up with an idea," he said. "Sometimes, in the morning when kids are a little sleepy, I'll encourage them to stand up. I love them both. They've definitely transformed the classroom."

In addition to standing, the desks also include a foot swing kids can use if they're prone to nervous activities like pencil tapping or other things that might distract classmates.

Harmon School Principal Mark Abramovich said he's a fan of the stand-up desks and foot swing.

"Your leg can go on it and kind of swing back and forth," he said. "Students can continue to burn energy, and it allows them to free their minds to focus on thinking without being distracted."

Abramovich said the desks have "taken off like wildfire. John's been doing a great job with that, and I'm really proud of that."

Seventh-grade students Connor Zamary and Peyton Verespej both said they think standing up helps them perform better on tests.

"They just feel more comfortable than to sit at a desk, sometimes," said Peyton. "They kind of keep me focused."

Connor said the desk also helps him focus while Farrell is speaking.

"It kind of takes the boredom out of some things, not that your class is boring," he said to Farrell. "If you're tired or something, it kind of wakes you up a little bit and focuses you."

Peyton said there are some things the pedals are good for during some school activities, but not all of them.

"It's hard to work on paper when you're pedaling," she said. "Pedals are better than just sitting at a desk, but I don't think you can use them if you're writing a paper or taking a test. I think it's great if you're listening to a teacher or watching a video."

Morgenroth said she likes the desks because they help more students do their best.

"There are so many different kinds of 'smarts' and so many different kinds of students," she said. "We love this program because it helps every student with unique ways of learning to be comfortable so they can maximize their potential."

Email: bgaetjens@recordpub.com

Phone: 330-541-9400 ext. 4188

Twitter: @bobgaetjens_rpc


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