By Sydney Clay
Oct. 1, 2015
Scott MacCormack and Rob MacDonald had a problem. The teachers at Colonel Gray noticed a group of four boys the two taught for most of the day.
The group was always sitting during class, while the teachers walking around.
MacDonald wondered how they could get kids up and moving during class.
“Kids sit all day and only walk around on the break between classes, while we walk around all day and don’t sit much at all. So we thought, why don’t we try to model that during class time,” he said.
MacCormack took a masters class five years ago where he could study whatever he wanted. He wanted to bring physical activity into the classroom by creating standing desks.
“It started with four desks and we replaced some of the seats with exercise balls, and these quickly became the sought-after seats.”
The teachers attached pieced of PVC pipe to the legs of school desks to make them taller.
Getting the supplies wasn’t easy. They needed desks that didn’t have seats attached, and a majority of the funding came out of their own pockets, said MacCormack.
“The last renovation was done to the school in the 90s, with the seats attached. It limits the organization of the class and the fundamentals of the building limit to group work.”
Now the classroom has a total of 24 desks, with wooden blocks for the students to stand on or rest a foot on, and two pull-up bars. Eight desks are reserved for sitting, he said.
“Students tried to guard the desks and make them their seats, but that defeats the purpose. We don’t want students to only stand or only sit, we want people to move.”
They have incorporated the desks into their teaching schedule by creating friendly competition between students, MacCormack said.
“We have little competitions to spark the interests of students and do various different exercises to try and get the students up and moving, even if it’s the littlest of movements, like asking them to get into groups to do a project.”
MacDonald didn’t think the desks would go over well.
“It is working better than we originally pictured. The Grade 12s in the afternoon had no idea what was going on when they first saw them, but they like the change.”
The moving around helps people concentrate, because they have less of a chance of falling asleep, but it can get difficult keeping track of everyone, MacDonald joked.
“With people constantly moving around it’s harder to do attendance.”
MacCormack said other staff are starting to see the benefits of the stand-up desks.
“Change in any organization is slow though.”
MacDonald said the request for stand-up desks increased after the CBC did their story on the desks.
“Teachers are limited to creativity when they are in four concrete walls with desks and a board at the front of the room. But after the story, more and more requests have gone to the school board because they think, if someone else can do it, maybe I can.”