Alternative seating makes a difference at Nevada High School

Ronna Lawless, Staff Writer
Alternative seating makes a difference at Nevada High School

Ashley Murphy wants to teach elementary school someday, and she just may be a natural at it. The Nevada senior is already investigating ways to improve student learning.

As part of an assignment for her composition course, Murphy researched the subject of using alternative forms of seating in classrooms and how it relates to student achievement.

Then Murphy took it one step further — she sought funding and turned the idea into reality for her English classroom.

The project in the advanced college-prep course required reading, research and persuasive writing. It fostered Murphy’s passion for education as both a student and a budding teacher.

“Through this project, I have learned more about learning preferences as well as the importance of following a passion,” Murphy said.

“When she was assigned to write an argumentative paper, Ashley wanted to research and argue a topic involving education,” said Heather Ludwig, who teaches English and speech at NHS. “It was important to her to argue an issue that is directly related to our high school.”

Alternative seating was an intriguing topic for Murphy because there are few changes in seating from classroom to classroom. After researching the subject and reflecting on real-life issues, she decided alternative seating should be used at the high school.

There are a variety of alternatives to the traditional desk: standing desks, beanbags, gel cushions, wobble chairs, bungee chairs and balance balls.

The alternative seating can be implemented in a classroom for more effective learning, Murphy said.

As Murphy reported in her assignment, according to a study conducted in 2007 by the Mayo Clinic, students who had the ability to move around were more attentive because movement allows for both alertness and attention in children.

“The study also showed that a common form of alternative seating, exercise balls, improved their muscle strength and posture, as well as concentration because there is a neurological pathway that goes from your body’s balance and movement system to the brain’s alert system,” Murphy said.

That alternative seating comes at a price, and Murphy was determined to find a way to see her idea through to fruition and get alternative seating in Ludwig’s classroom. Murphy approached the school administration and school board. That resulted in NHS Principal Justin Gross purchasing some of the items Murphy had requested.

Murphy also posted a request on DonorsChoose.org, a crowd-funding site that enables people to donate to classroom projects, Ludwig said. Murphy was able to raise $400 for other pieces of furniture within 18 hours of creating the post.

So now Ludwig’s classroom is decked out with balance balls, beanbags, a bar-height table — and the list is expected to grow.

Other students are already experiencing the benefits of the new variety of seats. Michael West, for example, was overwhelmed by the prospect of taking a rigorous six-page test on “To Kill A Mockingbird” in his ninth-grade honors English class.

“As soon as I looked at the test, I about fainted knowing what I was going to have to go through,” he said.

But before the test began, he reclined on the beanbags for a moment and calmed down.

“Through your donations, I have learned several things,” West said in an impact statement to the donors. “One of those things is that even something as small as a chair can make the difference in a classroom. … It helped me and the whole class through a huge test.”

For Murphy, she is happy to have a selection of seating when she attends her composition course. But it’s more than that.

“This project has also helped to increase my love for learning and has helped me to further follow my passion,” she said. “In my future, I want to become an educator; therefore, I love finding creative ideas to make learning more enjoyable and effective. Following my passion for learning has impacted my peers and me, and has shown me that creativity can benefit students.”