'Flexible seating' at schools offer healthier option for learning

Schools offer 'flexible seating' for better, healthier learning

A lot of schools are welcoming kids back into the classroom in a different way -- one that many experts say is healthier for their minds and their spines.

"We decided to make some changes," said Cottonwood Creek Elementary Principal Andra Penny, who has worked in education for more than 40 years and at her current campus for 21 years.

At this Coppell Independent School District school, you won't see kids sitting in those stiff chairs connected to tiny desks.

"They choose what's best for them," said Penny.

That's right -- they choose.

There are yoga balls, sofas, oversized chairs, fluffy chairs, and a variety of tables.

"I like sitting on a couch where there's a table in front of me where I can just be comfortable and then have a good working space," explained 5th grader Emme Ratliff.

You might hear this non-traditional working space referred to as "flexible seating."

"It's easy for me to get my work done because I'm not moving around," said 5th grader Peyton Reed. "I'm just very comfortable."

Comfort is one benefit of Mr. Ewbank's 5th grade classroom.

"It gives their brain a little mini-break," said Penny.

Posture is the other plus. Sitting in one position for a long time can fatigue the muscles in the lower back causing pain over time.

"The lumbar spine likes not to be in a straight position, which is what sitting does," said Dr. Scott Blumenthal, spine surgeon at Texas Back Institute.

Spine surgeons and chiropractors we spoke with said that shifting modalities will allow kids to think better because of increased oxygen and blood flow.

"We get it! I mean, I don't want to sit there for an hour or two hours in a chair," said Penny. "We've all been there, we've all had to do it, and we go home -- we're tired -- our back hurts, our legs hurt."

There is still much research that needs to be done about how flexible seating will affect kids and their spines long-term. But, experts generally agree that sitting comfortably is better -- as long as children aren't hunching forward with their spines flexed, shoulders sagging and head drooping downward toward a computer or tablet.

"Everything that flexible seating does is backed up by research," said Penny. "I think it makes us go, okay, we're doing something that's right!"

© 2017 WFAA-TV


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