Posted by Jen (October 4, 2007)
An interesting idea of how to create “movement” in the classroom! These photos were taken at V/S Headquarters in Germany in a beautiful countryside town of Tauberbischofsheim (Try saying that one fast three times! Took me three days just to figure out how to say it!) where Tiffany and myself were invited – along with some 100 US architects, designers, and dealers – to tour their manufacturing plant and listen to interesting lectures from visiting speakers.It was an invigorating experience! From winery tours to an enthusiastic lecture by Dr. Dieter Breithecker to meeting other like-minded individuals whose goal is to improve the physical world of schools to suit the children of tomorrow. One of the more interesting events of the visit was a tour of their on-site museum which features an exhibition titled, “The Classroom – School Furniture in the 20th Century.” Lucky for us, it had just been completed before our arrival. The exhibit took you through the ages of how furniture and school design has evolved. It is an “examination of school furniture and its direct impact on the wellbeing of the child. The museum presents an international cross-section of the history and development of school furniture from the beginning of the 20th century up to the present day. Educational, ergonomic and above all historic-cultural aspects are also included in the exhibition. Pioneering school buildings of the past century are presented in parallel.” (www.vs-furniture.com) Below is a “snapshot” of school chairs that have been used throughout the years – a lot of them should be recognizable.
It was amazing to learn that even in the early 1900s, they were even thinking about ergonomics and height adjustment for school furniture.
The museum had a great collection of sketches, models, and photographs to tell the story of not just school furniture design – but also of school design – and how each influenced the other. Going through the museum, I couldn’t think of how the past also influences the future – and it is important to know where we have come from in order to move forward in to make educated decisions and choices. It is not surprising that a company like V/S would realize the influence of designers and researchers on the evolution of school furniture design – with such great products as the PantoSwing chair.
A few days later, Dr. Briethecker spoke to use presenting a lecture titled “School Dynamics.” If you ever get the chance to hear him speak, I highly recommend it. “Dr. D,” a Sports and Physical Scientist, is the manager of the ‘Active School Movement’ in Germany and is Europe’s expert on the relationship between school furniture ergonomics and the physical development of school children. He is a promoter of keeping children active while learning – and has the research to back it up.
One of his main arguments was that after conducting a passive exercise, like doing math problems, there should be a physical learning exercise, like counting to 50 while jumping up and down (for example). In addition, chairs should allow for flexibility and movement that is natural to children’s bodies. The PantoSwing chair, especially the one on casters, really supports the need for children (and adults) to move while carrying out “sitting” tasks. In his study “The Educational Workplace: What the ‘classroom of the future’ will look like,” he concludes the following: “Sitting in a static/passive educational environment impedes a student’s postural development in their adolescent development years. ” In addition, the test group that received furniture and teaching methods that allowed for movement and “motile physical behavior” showed “considered increases” in concentration performance. For more information about his work, please view this article titled “Beware the Sitting Trap.”
The research on how movement stimulates and supports brain function seems so obvious but still some believe that kids need to sit still in order to listen and to behave. But as research defines design, and design defines research, the ergonomic-movement-flexible chair continue to evolve……who knows what the future will hold?????