Children's Ergonomics

Background

Children are not currently protected by legislation in the same way that adults are in the workplace in Europe. In many schools there is a lack of appropriate equipment such as school furniture and activity based learning techniques and environments to improve posture, fitness, attention and attainment. All too often products and services intended for children fall woefully short of the criteria expected for adults. The group aims to increase the knowledge of good ergonomics among those working with and designing for children and establish best ergonomics practice across a range of topic areas:

– Furniture & postural health education
– Technology
– Environmental Factors
– Multiple Learning Styles/intelligences
– Special Education
– Education of benefits of good ergonomics (raising awareness)

There is growing evidence that university age students are suffering more than ever before and this in turn is increasing the risk of new strains of ill health for young people starting work for example, visual and hearing impairment through to MSDs and technology addiction. Early ergonomics intervention and education from childhood is considered to be critical for the global economy and individuals alike. The Special Interest Group hopes to play its part in helping young people to develop good habits and enter the workplace with less ill health and injuries and have a more positive approach and attitude towards wellbeing.

Aims

– Raise awareness of the role of ergonomics in protecting and enhancing children’s physical and mental development.
– Contribute to the health, wellbeing and learning capacity of young people throughout their formal educational years through the application of ergonomics.
– Nurture and encourage the development of good habits into adulthood through improved behaviour, posture, movement, exercise, awareness of ergonomics, furniture and environment and responsible use of technology.
– Encourage parents, health practitioners and education leaders to think again about the lack of health and safety legislation, guidance and awareness protecting children during this essential part of their physical and mental development.

The Group collating research and developing a ‘Well Learning Charter’ to help raise awareness of the role of ergonomics in protecting and enhancing children’s physical and mental development.

With an ergonomics perspective from CIEHF members and a positive recruitment/inclusion plan for practitioners from other disciplines – physiotherapy, paediatric occupational health, osteopathy, education, architects and designers – the Group aims to promote insightful, practical and well-rounded advice and literature on a range of child-related health topics.

The Group is calling on postgraduate students for help with topics that need exploring, both in terms of identifying existing research through fresh literature reviews, identifying gaps and initiating any fresh studies. See the list below. If you can help, please email Group Lead Jim Taylour.

Thesis Industry Exchange Research Questions

Learning spaces, furniture & postural health education
1. How can technology support teachers and students to select the right size of furniture to suit individual pupils?
2. How can movement (for wellbeing) be incorporated into the classroom environment with minimal disruption to the school day?
3. How can learning spaces be improved to accommodate more dynamic working practices within standard classroom spaces?
4. How can a traditional classroom space be turned into a dynamic, adaptable space with minimal disruption to the school day?
5. How can the use of dynamic classroom furniture support the increase in use of ever-evolving classroom technology?
6. Can the use of a size guide wall chart and a choice of a variety of different chairs and table sizes be used to cater for the various sizes of children in one classroom?
7. How could a classroom be adapted to support the use of a variety of sizes in furniture?
8. How could a classroom be adapted to accommodate different ways of working e.g. standing workstations or space to lie on the floor?
9. What role could postural health education play in supporting movement in classrooms?
10. Could a scheme be developed to enable a number of schools in a local area to trade classroom furniture in order to cater for the range of children’s sizes within a classroom/year group/school?
11. In what ways do different pedagogical styles affect pupils’ comfort?
12. How can classroom spaces and, or furniture be used to support lessons delivered using a variety of mediums? E.g. storytelling, role-play, sound and images?
13. The dimensional standard for education furniture BS EN 1729-1 has recently been revised to accommodate alternative ergonomic chairs and tables. Can the right classroom furniture improve concentration and attainment?
14. How much does back pain and other musculoskeletal disorders effect teachers both in terms of absenteeism and presenteeism and what affordable ergonomic interventions can be deployed to reduce the risks?
15. Does the use of air cells in seat cushions provide more or less postural benefits for the user over conventional foam filled seats (e.g. in computer chairs and seat wedges)?
16. What are the physical storage requirements for a modern school? To what extent does the ubiquitous access to online learning content enable education establishments to jettison paper and other materials traditionally stored in schools? What are the implications for curriculum-based definitions of learning spaces?
17. Given that new brain scanning techniques are smaller and more mobile, can tests be developed to indicate differences in areas of the brain involved with cognition which emerge when subjects are engaged in social activities i.e. within group settings?

Technology
1. What are the predictions for information technology dependence in UK schools over the next 5 years, how will it affect pupil physical and mental health and what interventions might be required to avoid the same mistakes endured in the adult workplace?
2. What guise will technology take in education in the next 5 years and what are the health and attainment pros and cons?
3. Is mindfulness working as a tool to combat technology over dependence?
4. How can technology be used to improve health awareness amongst the young?
5. How does the use of technology enable alternative layouts of teaching spaces which are different from traditional linear arrangements i.e. facing the front teaching point? What, if any, are the pedagogic and learning advantages to alternative arrangements of interior spaces?

Environmental Factors
1. The ‘well building standard’ from Delos has increased in popularity globally in recent years for commercial buildings whose owners want to address air quality, thermal comfort, fitness, nutrition and wellness generally for the occupants. Can it work in schools in the UK and in what guise?
2. Biophilia has become popular in the workplace in capturing elements of the outside world and deploying them internally be it natural materials, forms, light, air quality and vistas etc. to motivate and enrich occupants. To what extent can this be applied to schools?
3. The ‘mile a day’ walk campaign has exploited the school grounds to get students walking and engaging more – what else can be done to get children moving more whilst at school?

Multiple intelligences
1. Spaces to reflect alternative pedagogy, what are they and do they really work?
2. Whether using interactive or plain whiteboard, learning spaces remain dominated by the teaching “board”. Why is this teaching point such a strong magnet for the design of learning layouts and are there other arrangements for learning which would suit the development of multiple-intelligences more effectively?
3. Until recently, brain scanning equipment has been large and required patient/subjects to lie down in MRI equipment. Given that new scanning techniques are smaller and more mobile, is there any evidence to suggest brain wave patterns are different in more vertical postures when measured on actual task?
4. What winds of change drive current interest in school Maker Spaces? Is this a short wave or a tidal movement in Education practice and learning development?
5. School interiors are supplied through traditional contract specification and manufacturer supply chain largely controlled by Building Contractors at the point of new building delivery. What would be required to enable alternative methods (and what might these look like) for schools to set out their own pedagogic drivers and for them to specify and procure for their own longer term spatial evolution?

Special Education
1. What’s special about the equipment required for inclusivity and should it be deployed for all?
2. Does alternative ergonomic space and equipment make a significant difference to behaviour, comfort and/or attainment for special needs?

Education of benefits of good ergonomics (raising awareness)
1. What needs to change with the procurement process so there’s money left for furniture with refurbished and newly built schools?
2. The Wellbeing charter in the workplace and now the Healthy Schools London initiative in schools is raising awareness and standards for wellness – what ergonomic additions are required in schools?
3. Benefits of good ergonomics for young people is often not understood by designers, specifiers, teachers and parents – what initiatives are required to raise awareness?
4. There is a body of evidence which suggests that sedentary and mostly stationary postures are not good for humans. Given that there are a large number of options between lying horizontally and standing vertically, what postures and activities should be considered for different tasks, what technologies might be employed to make them least stressful on the human anatomy and what are the real benefits of any such alternatives?
5. Would educating teachers and children basic anatomy of the spine and postural health help to improve awareness of postural health and help to positively change behaviours?