Broken, uncomfortable desks do not foster learning–but yoga balls might

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Lesley Righetti, a first grade teacher at Jefferson International Academy, made the switch in her classroom and claims that she has seen kids with “greater engagement, more excitement, and a higher desire to learn.”

AP Lang Student

Many  students at University High School (UHS) find school desks to be both uncomfortable and annoying. Their odd shape and small surfaces make sitting in class more difficult than it should be. Considering the fact that students spend almost forty hours a week sitting in desks, UHS has the responsibility to invest in newer, more comfortable chairs for its students. After all, students do spend about six hours of their day sitting in them.

The majority of the chairs that most of the classrooms have are old-fashioned. Dark blue and white plastics are stuck together with pieces of metal serve as a seat and a small desk to write and learn on.

For a good portion of the student population, these desks simply don’t do their job. Many desks have some kind of ledge on the right side of the chair to serve as an armrest for the right hand, which is the dominant hand for most students. Although it’s true that most students are right handed, some students are left hand dominant, and these chairs don’t have any easy modifications to accommodate left-handed students. School desks need to accommodate students who write with either of their hands to ensure that the quality of their education isn’t negatively affected by which hand they happen to write with.

The current chairs also fail to accommodate a variety of student heights. Every desk comes in only one size. Some students, however, have longer legs or are a lot taller than average, and these desks can be incredibly uncomfortable for those with non-average body types. It is hard to be crammed into a chair that is made for someone two feet shorter or with legs a foot shorter than a student happens to be. The student body is comprised of people of a variety of sizes, and our chairs should reflect these differences.

In addition to the poor design in the structure of the desks, the desks themselves have their own issues. First of all, the writing surfaces are way too small. Although School Outfitters, the maker of the desks, claims that the “desktop gives kids tons of space for books, papers and other learning tools,” this could not be further from the truth. Opening one binder, let alone taking out papers, textbooks and a pencil case, as the company claims the desks have space for, can easily fill up the entire desk space.

UHS desks also constantly have structural problems. A desk with a problem as minor as a loose screw to one as big as a giant chunk of the desk missing can be both distracting and even dangerous to a student. I accidentally ripped a hole in my backpack just by lifting it off the floor when it was caught on a poorly cut wire on the chair, which serves to show how poorly these chairs are made.

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Gaiam, an international corporation that specializes in fitness products, proposes yoga ball chairs to increase productivity and comfort in a learning environment.

As an alternative to these structurally unaccommodating, undersized, and poorly made desks, students should sit on yoga ball chairs.  Gaiam, an international corporation that specializes in fitness products, has produced a yoga ball chair is a great alternative to a traditional desk. It offers a way to improve balance and core and back strength while also providing comfortable seating.

In addition to the health improvements these chairs provide, they are also relatively inexpensive. Gaiam’s Classic Balance Ball Chair costs a mere seventy-eight dollars with free shipping, while the chairs UHS currently has cost roughly 134 dollars each, with another $202.62 added on for shipping. This substantial difference in cost and quality is a main reason why our school and others should switch to using yoga ball chairs.

Other schools have already reformed to yoga ball chairs. Lesley Righetti, a first grade teacher at Jefferson International Academy, made the switch in her classroom and claims that she has seen kids with “greater engagement, more excitement, and a higher desire to learn.”

It would be extremely beneficial for our school to make the switch to yoga ball chairs. Current desks are unstable and ineffective, while yoga balls improve posture and provide more comfort to students. If first graders can do it, so can we.

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