ACTIVE CLASSROOM
Research

2020

The ‘Active Classroom’ sitting philosophy, for primary school children, focuses on postural change using a choreography of postural affordances1, which can be translated as opportunities to act and move.

To support concentration, autonomous and active postures of the body are used to mobilize muscle groups to function actively and keep the body energized. Each stool is designed to incorporate a minimum of 4 different postures, as frequent variations in alternative sitting positions increases the activity of muscles that would otherwise be left unused in conventional chairs, thus supporting alteration and moderate fysical load supporting the body’s health.

To realize the postural changes, the design focuses on the edge of sitting in balance & imbalance. The use of the stools thus requires a measured effort, in which the change of postures is motivated by the subtle fatigue of the muscles, implicitly encouraging the change of body postures. Every change of posture implies a necessity to again activate other muscle groups.

Rethinking sitting is crucial, but changing sitting means transforming habitus, a serious challenge given the inertia built into conventional chair sitting. The transition to a new sitting behaviour generates cultural and psychological discomfort as well as practical objections. Western adult users find it difficult and even annoying to deviate from their lifelong build sitting behaviours.

To take the ‘Active Classroom’ stools not as a regular design presumption we have chosen to conduct research (ongoing since February 2020), in 3rd grade primary school classes. The younger generation is both mentally and physically flexible and most receptive to changes in habitual behavior.

The research project is run in collaboration with Dr. Simone Caljouw, R.U.G., University of Groningen, Faculty of Medical Science, and Dr. John van der Kamp, V.U., Free University of Amsterdam, Faculty of Movement Sciences, both specialised in the theoretical and practical knowledge of affordances2,3,4,5. Previously they have investigated an alternative working environment called ‘The End of Sitting’4,5 developed by Rietveld Architecture - Art - Affordances (RAAAF), to observe how middle-aged workers adapt to an office environment without chairs.

The goal of this research project is to understand whether or not the design approach of the ‘Active Classroom’ invites postural change and diversity by redesigning sitting objects instead of removing the conventional chairs altogether. The aim is to facilitate a more acceptable transition from the contemporary western culture to embracing a healthier sitting habitus, starting in schools.




References

  1. Gibson JJ. (1979/1986). The ecological approach to visual perception, chapter 8. The Theory of Affordances. Hillsdale: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
  2. van Hof, P., van der Kamp, J. & Savelsbergh, G. (2008). The relation between infants’ perception of catchableness and the control of catching. Developmental Psychology, 44, 182-194
  3. van der Kamp, J., Savelsbergh, G.J.P., & Davis, W. (1998). Body-scaled ratio as control parameter for prehension in 5-9 year old children. Developmental Psychobiology, 33, 351-361.
  4. Caljouw, S.R., de Haan, E.H., Mollee, R., Withagen, R. (2019). The End of Sitting: How middle-aged employees use and experience a new activity-inducing office over time. Journal of Environmental Psychology.
  5. Withagen R, & Caljouw SR. (2016). “The end of sitting”: An empirical study on working in an office of the future. Sports Medicine, 46, 1019-1027.




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