How many states in the U.S. provide for ergonomics education in the classroom? If you said zero, give yourself a perfect score.
Aside from a few states’ attempts to limit the weight of books and supplies being crammed into a student’s backpack, very little information regarding ergonomics is being presented to children at school. Yet these same kids sit in desks, work on computers, play sports and video games, and are continually reporting more and more injuries that could be mitigated by proper ergonomics.
Currently only one state, New Jersey, has begun to address the concept of teaching ergonomics as part of the public school curriculum by setting up a task force to determine if and how ergonomics education should be taught by public schools. Almost everywhere else, ergonomics are left up to the individual schools and districts. A quick glance at a public school computer lab shows children sitting on rigid, non-adjustable one-size-fits-all chairs; another look into the elementary school classroom shows teachers attempting to physically get on the same level as their students in pint-sized desks. End result? Ergonomics isn’t there.
Some ergonomists are taking matters into the classroom themselves, like Maureen Graves Anderson, AHFT, an ergonomics consultant from Maine. When she heard that her children’s school was having a health fair, she called to offer her services for a short presentation on computer ergonomics. The school immediately signed her up.
Her presentation was brief: five minutes was all the time she was allocated, but she made the most of it, discussing posture and taking breaks from computer work. “I hooked one kid from each class to a biofeedback monitor. . . to show muscle activity from reaching forward to keyboard and to the side to a mouse. The kids really liked the demo. I also gave them a one-page handout to take home to parents on ergonomics and home computer use.”
For Graves Anderson, the five minutes wasn’t much, but it was something. “I know of at least two kids who went home and told their parents about it,” she said, plus teachers reported that kids were talking about the ergonomics presentation in the classroom.
As a mother and an ergonomics professional, teaching children more about ergonomics is extremely important to Graves Anderson. “All of them have computers at home. Plus they’re young, they’re forming their habits, so it makes sense to talk to them about using computers,” Graves Anderson said. After all, these kids are in school today to learn how to tackle the workforce tomorrow.