As history teacher Sue Nellis instructs her freshman class, the students work diligently in their seats.
However, one student stands apart – literally.
Resting her elbows and feet on the desk, freshman Monique Lonergan is intent and focused on her computer.
Her ability to stand and work is due to an invention that was recently introduced to the school: standing desks.
The first Monday of the second semester, following a grueling session of finals, freshmen walked into the history class to see two unique additions to the previously ordinary seating options.
Reaching waist level, the desks are the perfect height to lean against and rest one’s elbows on. There’s a moving bar at the bottom of the desks that one foot (or both) can rest on, which encourages movement and heightens attentiveness.
Nellis is the first teacher to try the standing desks.
She said that the benefit of the standing desk is proved by science.
“There are studies that say students sitting in desks all day long have a harder time learning,” Nellis said. “Some need to be more active and are better learners when moving. There’s lots of research, and I saw a news report about it.
“The idea of standing up (also) works well with writing and using computers (because of the height).”
However, the desks don’t work for certain class activities.
“For example, I have not let anyone take a test at the standing desks,” Nellis said.
“(And) when we do group work, having some standing may not work, although it has been fine in some cases.”
The $200 standing desks have been a hit with students – some more so than others.
Freshmen Heidi Johnson and Chardonnay Needler said they really like them.
“Sometimes I get tired sitting in a desk because we’re just sitting all day in all our classes,” Johnson said. “(The standing desk) keeps me more awake and alert.”
Needler said the desks help her focus.
“I work better standing up because I have a lot of energy,” she said. “If I’m sitting down, I get distracted easily and don’t pay as much attention as I could.”
However, freshman Blake Lincoln feels exactly the opposite.
“They’re fun, (but) I get more distracted when using them,” he said.
While approximately one-third of the freshmen haven’t tried the standing desks, the ones who have like them for similar reasons: the desks allow movement, keep students more alert, and provide a better view of the board that is not obstructed by classmates’ heads.
Of the ones who have tried them, more than half said that the desks positively affect their learning ability or attention span; the others said that the desks don’t affect them either way.
Only two freshmen, including Lincoln, said they found the desks distracting.
“The students have been very interested in the desks, so they are rarely empty,” Nellis said. “I had to restrict their use at first so that everyone got a chance to use one of them.
“Right now we’re just experimenting to see if it it works,” she said. “Having a few in a classroom might be a nice way for people to stretch and move around.”
Brooke Wells, head of high school, first suggested the standing desks to other faculty members.
“I saw it in the magazine of a company in the Midwest last year, where they work on treadmills,” Wells said.
“They’re expensive, so we want to make sure we get them in the rooms that will use them.”
In response to Wells’s “faculty wishlist,” parents at the Auction recently contributed $250 to purchase more standing desks.
Wells said the desks aren’t a unique idea.
The lower-school students are using a bouncy-ball swivel desk, math teacher Patricia Jacobsen uses a stand-up desk, and Gabriella Foster, assistant to head of high school, sits on a bouncy ball.
Although the initial plan was to rotate the desks through classrooms to see student reaction, they appear to have found their home.
“Nellis’s students like them so much, I don’t think we’ll be moving them any time soon,” Wells said.
—By Mohini Rye