When we think about ergonomics, many of us think about chairs and tables. We don’t necessarily think about backpacks, but these make a huge difference in the ergonomics of a child. The backpack can easily influence the child’s posture and back more than anything else. Here are some important suggestions for your child’s backpack:
The straps on the pack should be wide and padded.
Add a waist belt to the backpack if your child tends to carry a lot of weight.
Make sure both straps are actually worn because this will distribute the weight.
If you have a backpack that has a number of compartments, this can better distribute the weight. Put the heavier items closer to the back and make sure that any pointy or bulky items aren’t resting against the back.
The backpack should hang below the shoulders and rest on the hips and pelvis.
Try to encourage your child to leave some things at home or at school. There is no reason to carry everything that you own in your backpack.
Encourage the school to give your children two sets up textbooks so that one can be left at school and one can be used at home. This will keep them from carrying very heavy items back and forth.
Today, children sit in their school chairs for hours and hours each day. This should be cause for concern for parents and teachers, as children aren’t necessarily learning how to sit correctly. And this can have an impact on their bodies and their health.
Slouching in your chair at school is very bad for your back. It distorts your spine into a “C” shape that can be unhealthy for you and your back. This puts pressure on your intervertebral discs and this can contribute to back pain and to discomfort.
What’s the way to sit better? First, we need to teach students to sit back in their chairs. Their backs should make full contact with the backrest. This supports your spine and helps children to receive the full benefits of the work chair. It’s important, as well, to have the right type of chair to help with ergonomics.
The UCLA Ergonomics Program is a unique and creative program which offers “ergo-friendly” solutions to a large number of work-related issues. The goal of the program is to help make the work that people do a better fit so that workers are more comfortable, safer, and ultimately working in a more efficient way.
There are four steps recommended by the UCLA Ergonomics Program when a new employee first begins to work at his computer table. Step one is to select an appropriate chair. Work tasks, body size and shape should all be considered when choosing a chair. Be sure that you spine is most comfortable when it is in a “neutral posture” while sitting in the chair.
The second step is selecting an ergonomic keyboard. Articulating keyboard trays can be a good solution, providing optimal positioning of input devices. Make sure the tray does not force you to be too far away from your other work materials, like your telephone.
Making sure that your screen, documents and telephone are well positioned is the third step to an ergonomically healthy workstation. Always be sure that your neck is always in a neutral and relaxed position. Here are suggestions as to how to place your monitor so it works best for you.
• Position your monitor directly in front of you and above your keyboard.
• Center the top of the monitor approximately 2-3” above your eye level when seated. (If you wear bifocals, take care to lower the monitor to a comfortable reading level.)
• Be sure to sit at least an arm’s length away from the screen and then adjust the distance for your vision.
• Take care to reduce glare by carefully positioning the screen.
• Place the screen at right angles to windows
• Remember to adjust the curtains or blinds as needed
• Place the vertical screen angle and screen controls in such a way so that the glare from overhead lights is minimized
• Place your telephone within easy reach. Telephone stands or arms can help.
• Use a headset or speaker phone to eliminate cradling the handset.
Step four: Make sure to take breaks throughout the day. Even with a close to perfect work environment it is still crucial to move around during the day. Lengthy postures that keep the body still for long periods of time are harmful, inhibiting blood circulation, taking a toll on the body. Here are some suggestions on how to keep the body moving during the long work day:
• Every twenty minutes or so be sure to take a 1-2 minute stretch break. After an hour of work, take another break, changing your task for at least 5-10 minutes. It is helpful to move away from your computer desk during lunch.
• You can get relief from eye fatigue by resting and refocusing your eyes from time to time. Look away from the monitor and focus on something else further away.
• Give your eyes a break. Cover them with your palms for about 10-15 seconds every so often.
• Always be aware of your posture while working, and keep it correct. And try to keep moving.
For years, researchers have been evaluating the influence of color on our emotional state, as well as on our ability to learn. In 1976, Rikard Kuller demonstrated that color and visual patterns affect the cortex and the central nervous system. Color has also been proven to alter the level of alpha brain wave activity, a measurable indicator of human alertness. In addition, when the human eye takes in color, the brain releases a hormone which affects our moods, mental clarity and energy level. These findings can have a monumental impact on schools and other educational facilities by promoting productivity and focus in the classroom. In fact, color may be as important as comfortable classroom chairs and classroom tables for student efficiency. Even the color of school lockers can add much to the atmosphere in the classroom.
Color and Eye Strain
Concentrating on school work at a desk, and then shifting focus to a board or distant area over and over again, is a demanding task for a student’s eyes. Researchers have found that the eye relaxes more when it stops to rest on a different color than that of its previous focal point. Therefore, to alleviate eye strain in a classroom, the wall facing the students should be painted in a different shade than the rest of the room. When students look up from their desks, the colored wall helps their eyes relax. For best results, the end wall colors should be a medium hue like blue, green or light purple, while the other walls should be neutral- with colors like oyster white, sandstone or beige.
Color and Brain Stimulation
Research has also shown that small color changes can make a difference by stimulating a person’s brain. In an environmental color coordination study conducted by the US Navy, researchers found that the introduction of color caused a 28% drop in accidents. Color in the classroom has also been found to increase productivity and to enhance the student’s attention span. A 1983 study by Harry Wohlfarth evaluated students at four elementary schools, monitoring their performances under the influence of improved lighting and color conditions, and a lack thereof. The students who were exposed to enhanced lighting and additional colors showed a marked improvement over those who were not.
Many people don’t think about ergonomics when they consider their school furniture choices. They just buy the furniture that will fit in the classroom and that might be the least expensive. Thinking about ergonomics, however, is very important. The school chairs that student use can make a big difference in their comfort level and their ability to focus. The school desks, as well, allow the kids to be organized and ready for their day – or to feel cramped and uncomfortable.
It’s certainly worthwhile, if a school is starting out with new furniture, to have these ideas in mind and to think about these considerations. The ergonomics in the school environment are very important and can make quite a difference in the learning environment.
In England there exist laws which govern the size of the desks and chairs that teachers receive to insure that the chairs are comfortable and ergonomically sound. Unfortunately when it comes to students, the school desk and chairs have no such requirement. Therefore school desks and chairs are often chosen for their low cost, rather than for their level of comfort.
Over the years the ergonomics of school furniture has become more important, not less, as children spend longer periods of time at their desks and in front of computers in school.
Former English education secretary Charles Clarke reported for the British Educational Suppliers Association on what his research showed was the serious need to improve the education of Britain’s children. The report stated that, “Sitting for extended periods on chairs that are of inappropriate size and that lack ergonomic design and at classroom desks or tables whose height relative to the chair is incorrect and will be uncomfortable” will diminish students’ ability to learn. Furthermore, “The Back Pain Association is convinced that schools are a significant source of back problems.”
The report also stated that schools did not pay much attention to the ergonomic factor when choosing school furniture like classroom chairs. Rather, the motivating factor for picking student furniture was the “lowest unit price.”
Not only do children sit in their school chairs longer than they did in the past, but students are also not the same size they were in the 1960s, when much of today’s school furniture was designed. In the past 50 years children are actually taller, on average, than they were in the 60s.
The report urged ministers to have schools utilize adjustable furniture in the new schools that are now under construction under England’s school rebuilding program.