While we're on the subject of Back to School, here's a tip just in from the friendly skies (i.e. I read it on the plane last week): researchers from the renowned Mayo Clinic have designed what they believe to be the first classroom without chairs. Instead, "students write standing at podiums on wheels or take spelling tests sprawled on carpet squares."
Mayo obesity researcher Dr. James Levine studies the connection between everyday movement and weight. His hypothesis was that "a different type of classroom could encourage movement, and ultimately, reduce the risk of obesity." So he and his colleagues designed a classroom with no need for chairs, using "a range of creative and mobile tools," including Apple laptop computers and iPods -- so spelling tests could be downloaded and taken anywhere in the classroom, for example.
Sounds like fun, but totally distracting, ay? I'm trying to imagine my kids actually concentrating on a math assignment while wheeling around the room. I'm trying to imagine any form of order or progress being made in a free-for-all environment like that...
But apparently, the concept works quite well, at least with 4th and 5th graders in Minnesota, who recently participated in a three-week study. Teachers reported that students were more focused and had fewer behavior problems. And parents reported that their kids were happier in school. And of course, the kids loved it. But will they be skinnier? Remains to be seen.
Meanwhile, how about designing a chair-less workplace? What would Dilbert have to say about that?