July 1st, 2002

Ergonomics for Elementary School Students

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While senators and labor officials argue over ergonomics definitions and injury rates some elementary schools are taking the opportunity to improve ergonomics for their students.

An innovative program at Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary School in Sammamish, Washington, is trying to teach students, some as young as five, that fitting the environment to you is a good thing.

Diane Tien, the school’s instructional technology assistant, with help from some of the country’s leading experts in children’s ergonomics developed the program. Speaking about the program philosophy, Tien states, “It isn’t so much that [the students] have to learn what the definition of ergonomics is, they have to understand their own physical needs first.”

The issue of children and ergonomics has recently been getting more attention. In December of 2001, MSNBC included this issue in a five-part series titled, “The working wounded”.

According to MSNBC, some surveys indicate that fourth-graders spend 9 percent of their time on computers; by 12th grade, that proportion jumps to 19 percent. The University of Rochester, found similar evidence when they asked sixth- through eighth-graders whether they experienced computer-related aches or pains at home or school. A total of 47 percent experienced discomfort with wrists; 44 percent with neck; 43 percent with eyes and 41 percent with hands.

There are resources available for educational institutions that wish to explore how to improve ergonomics for their students.

In September, 2001, Ergoweb reported on a new technical committee, Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments, established by The International Ergonomics Association (IEA). Objectives of the committee include:

  • Defining strategies to inexpensively retrofit or redesign existing furniture used in computer environments at home, and in schools, libraries, children’s museums and other educational environments;
  • Promoting the development of ergonomic design guidelines (or codes of practice) for software, hardware, furniture, classrooms, computer rooms, school libraries and other educational environments.

The program at Elizabeth Blackwell Elementary will focus on teaching children about minimizing awkward postures and the importance of taking breaks during computer work or play.

More information about the committee, Ergonomics for Children and Educational Environments, can be found at
http://www.ergoweb.com/news/detail.cfm?id=414.



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