Creating an Ergonomic Learning Environment: A Guide to Choosing the Best Furniture Sizes for Educational Spaces

Creating an Ergonomic Learning Environment: A Guide to Choosing the Best Furniture Sizes for Educational Spaces

In ergonomic learning environments, both the physical environment and the furnishings within it play a pivotal role in fostering learning and wellbeing. While much of the focus of learning space design is placed on the layout and function of the classroom, details like ergonomics and student comfort are equally important.

Selecting the right-sized furniture for a learning environment may help improve student comfort, focus, and even their physical health. According to the Ergonomics in Education Foundation, ergonomic interventions in classrooms can lead to improved student health and higher engagement levels overall. In this blog, we’ve laid out our top guidelines and considerations for selecting the best table and chair sizes for educational spaces in order to create an ergonomic learning environment centered around student wellbeing.

Ergonomics In Educational Spaces

Ergonomics refers to the relationship between people, the work they perform, and the environment they’re working in. The concept of ergonomics extends into educational settings, putting an emphasis on the optimization of furnishings to improve posture, increase comfort, and prevent strain.

Selecting ergonomic furnishings for learning environments also may help to enhance focus, improving efficiency, and academic achievement. For students––who spend up to 14 percent of their waking hours in school––ergonomic furniture in educational spaces is a necessity to maintain physical health and promote positive learning outcomes.

At MiEN, we offer a wide variety of furniture options to create ergonomic environments in school spaces. For K-12 students, particularly those in elementary grades, table height and chair size are an essential consideration. Early elementary learning spaces can benefit from the use of floor seating and multipurpose tables, while all grade levels can find success with flexible and mobile furnishings. Most importantly, schools should consider the age and height of students who will most often be utilizing each learning environment in order to select the best size for the furnishings in the space.

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Guidelines For Desk and Table Heights

When selecting desks and tables for ergonomic learning environments, the primary consideration should be accessibility to all students. Ideally, desks and tables should accommodate the average height of the age group using them, allowing students to rest their arms comfortably on the surface without hunching their shoulders or straining their backs.

Elementary Schools: Desks and tables should be about 18 to 22 inches high for early childhood and pre-K classrooms through 1st grade, gradually increasing to 25 to 28 inches for students in 2nd to 5th grade. Additionally, ensure table height is adjusted accordingly for book boxes and other under worksurface storage clearance.

Middle and High Schools: Students in secondary grades are typically able to use standard “adult-sized” tables, 28-30-inch-tall tables are suitable for most students in middle and high school.

Adjustable Tables: When possible, adjustable tables are an invaluable investment, allowing educational spaces to accommodate the diverse heights of students and adapt to various seating and standing activities.

ADA Compliant Tables: ADA compliance is always a primary focus when selecting furnishings for a space, as it’s crucial for learning environments to be accessible to every student. To accommodate wheelchairs and other mobility devices, consider using adjustable tables or the SLICE student desk, which offers ADA compliant PAL curved legs that provide ample space for wheelchairs.

Selecting The Right Chair Size

A chair that properly fits a student, in an ergonomic learning environment, can significantly improve posture and comfort. Chairs that are the correct size allow students to place their feet flat on the floor and lean back without tipping or discomfort.

Seat Height: The height of a chair should correlate with the height of the table it is paired with, ensuring users can comfortably reach the work surface. As a general rule, there should be about 8 to 10 inches between the seat of the chair and the bottom of the table. At MiEN, we offer chairs and stools in standard, counter, and café heights, as well as varying specialty-height benches, stools, and soft seating.

Adjustability and Mobility: Adjustable-height chairs are highly versatile, which enables them to pair well with a variety of different tables, including sit-to-stand tables. Chairs that are mobile––including swivel chairs and chairs with casters––give students greater flexibility of use and make it easier to move around for collaborative activities. Furthermore, adjustability and mobility allow students to modify their seating to fit their needs, promoting inclusivity and accessibility to students with disabilities or injuries.

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Begin Designing Your Ergonomic Learning Environment

Selecting the right desks, tables, and chairs in educational spaces is a key factor in promoting a healthy, comfortable, and engaging learning environment. By focusing on ergonomics and considering the needs and comfort of students, learning space designers can make informed decisions that result in a more positive learning experience.

Dr. Christina CountsDr. Christina Counts, ALEP, VP of Education for MiEN Environments, is a proven leader with a successful background in transforming learning spaces into modern engaging learning environments. Dr. Counts has worked in education for over 17 years with experience as a classroom teacher, district instructional leader, school administrator, and digital and innovative learning designer. In her most recent position, Christina leads a team of professionals that support schools making the transition to a flexible, collaborative, & student-centered learning space.  She holds a doctorate in K-12 Educational Leadership, National Board-certified, and Google & Apple certified. Dr. Counts envisions a learning space in which educators are empowered to transform education through design, technology and innovative instructional pedagogy to create learners ready for any future!