Rethinking the desk and chair

One look inside Lisa Mongiello’s classroom and you’ll notice something is missing — the conventional classroom configuration of single-person desks aligned in neat, uniform rows. Mongiello teaches animal science at the Academy at Bixhorn Tech in Bellport, and has recently taken a different route to classroom seating. She did away with the traditional desks and the seating chart, and replaced everything with alternative options because of the numerous benefits it offers students. The Eastern Long Island Academy of Applied Technology is the Career and Technical Education Program of Eastern Suffolk BOCES and has locations in Bellport, Oakdale and Riverhead. Students have several choices throughout the day, as lessons move from presentations to collaborative projects to writing assignments to hands-on activities. They may begin the class at the rectangular tables that fill the center of the classroom. These fit two to six students, depending on the project. For different assignments, they can choose to sit on a small couch with its coffee table and area rug, on the bar stools in the back of the class, raise the tables to convert them into standing desks, or use the stability balls at the tables or at the computer bank. “Students choose the seating that works best for them, enabling them to do their best learning,” Mongiello explained. Don’t think that the non-traditional seating and lack of a rigid configuration means a lack of structure. “This seating is designed for collaboration,” said Mongiello. She pointed out that students gain ownership and empowerment over their choices. Additionally, studies have shown that sitting for extended periods of time is not healthy. These options allow students to move around the class, which provides more blood and oxygen to the brain, making it easier to focus and work.

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