6th Graders Take on the ButtOn Chair

“80% of Americans have back pain.”

The sixth grade class had just been asked what information stood out to them from Dr. Osler’s TEDx talk, and this was the first student’s response. Apparently, the kids were paying attention. We were there to present an idea and offer the students an experiment: could active chairs be beneficial for them in the classroom?

The Task

We had reached out to Matt Chandler, a teacher at Edmunds Middle School in Burlington, VT to see if we could trial some of our “ButtOn” active chairs for kids in his classroom. He was extremely enthusiastic and jumped on the opportunity. We brought seven chairs of varying heights and opened a discussion on why we were making weird chairs in the first place. The kids clearly understood what we were trying to do, and their role was to help us create a better chair by testing and providing feedback… and boy, did they give feedback.

You see (or maybe know from experience), kids instinctively know that sitting still all day is bad. We were giving them permission, sanction to squirm, and they were fully on board. The excitement was high as the students experimented- squirming, rocking, seeing how far they could go in all directions. We left the class to do their worst to the chairs for a couple of months, and then returned to chat with Matt and his students.

Their Observations

The chairs had been rotated around the classroom so everyone had a chance to use them, and Matt assured us that they were always in use, displacing the regular “non-active” chairs. The students enjoyed having them available, and one of his top observations was that his students with ADHD seemed to concentrate better when they sat on the ButtOn chair. He hypothesized that the ability to move while they sat helped them to focus their attention on the work in front of them. Kind of like a fidget toy, but with a whole-body calming effect. Both observations were later confirmed by the student survey.

Matt also told us there was definitely a learning curve as his students first sat learned on the chairs. “Their instinct is to scoot forward to the edge of the chair, which is how they sit on regular chairs. But this resulted in them sliding off the front of the chair as the seat top tilted down. They eventually got the hang of it and learned to sit in the middle of the seat.” So, some instruction and training required!

Dr. Turner Osler TEDx Stowe Vermont Active Sitting

Their Suggestions

Feedback also included critical suggestions for the design of the chair. The primary observation here was that the seat tops were too slippery, causing kids to slide off as they were learning how to sit on them. We heard this from other testers as well, and have adjusted our design to now include a textured pattern on the seat surface. We’re still experimenting, but so far this tweak seems to provide the grip needed without adding any materials to the surface.

We also noticed that the tennis ball (the ButtOn Chair’s rocking mechanism) slowly became deformed over time. Our updated recommendation will be to change the tennis ball out every six months or so, or to use a slightly more firm lacrosse ball.

Student Survey

The students were given a short survey to complete as well. Overall, their feedback was extremely encouraging and made us want to push ahead with getting active sitting into schools. Notably, 71.4% of the kids thought they could concentrate better while using the ButtOn chairs, and 92.9% of the kids said “yes or maybe” to wanting the chairs in the classroom again next year. (See more of the survey results, below.)

Thank you

As we gathered up the chairs to return to our home base, Matt looked at us and said “the kids are going to be very sad to see them go.” We were thrilled that the kids had enjoyed the experience, and grateful for their participation and feedback. We promised Matt we would bring back even better chairs next year. He nodded and smiled, “you’ll have to come back so the kids can thank you.”

How to join our movement movement

If you are interested in creating ButtOn Chairs for your school or to use at home with your kids, send us an email and we’ll send you the plans. The chairs are designed to be cut from a single sheet of plywood (up to 6 from one standard sheet) using a CNC router. Snap the parts together and sand the rough edges, attach an old tennis ball with a short length of bungie cord, and the chair is ready for use. We are happy to be providing the design plans for free and have purposefully designed it to be inexpensive and relatively simple to make, because we believe active sitting will give all kids a better future.

And PS, if you don’t have access to a CNC router, we will soon have ButtOn chairs available for purchase.

active chairs in the classroom for kids
active chairs in the classroom for kids
active chairs in the classroom for kids
active chairs in the classroom for kids

If you used the chairs, do you feel like you were able to focus more when sitting in the QOR360 chairs?

YES – 57.1%
MAYBE – 28.6%
NO – 14.3%

Now that the chairs are gone, do you miss them?

YES – 57.1%
MAYBE – 28.6%
NO – 14.3%

Would you want chairs like this in your classed next year?

YES – 78.6%
MAYBE – 14.3%
NO – 7.1%

14 responses

Visit buttonchairs.org for more information.

24 thoughts on “6th Graders Take on the ButtOn Chair

  1. Tim Byrne says:

    We are extremely interested in your button chair. I would like to get my woodworking students involved. We have 2 cnc machines. Could you please send me the plans.

    tim Byrne
    Lake Region Union High School
    Orleans, Vermont
    [email protected]

    • Turner Osler says:

      Tim,
      You can download the .dxf file that a CNC router uses directly from the ButtOn Chair website: ButtOnchairs.org. We’ll put up a video on the Buttonchairs.org website shortly that will explain some of the fine points that are involved. -turner

  2. Cheryl Strnad says:

    I’d be interested in how to make one for personal use at home. I would need a bigger seat diameter and the ability to add a cushion onto it because I have a bad back (scoliosis from one shorter leg which was discovered too many years too late, after the damage had been done) and I can’t sit on hard surfaces.

    Is there a way to add in a possibility to adjust the chair height? I’m an in-home family caregiver and the ability to sit at various heights with different tasks would be helpful.

    • Turner Osler says:

      Our ButtOn Charis are made from plywood, so it’s easy to “adjust” the height by just sawing off a bit of each leg. You can also attach a bigger seat top should you need one. Just cut a circle from 3/4″ plywood of the diameter that would suit you best. You’ll also need to drill 4 holes, each 1/4″ in diameter to allow attachment with bungee cord.

  3. Aimee Neiderer says:

    I have 3 homeschoolers. These chairs would be great to use for class time. The 15 year old could help make them and they could all decorate them. Could I get a copy of the design please?

  4. Michael J Kane says:

    I am vert interested in the button chair that you can make out of plywood
    can you send me the plans
    thank you
    Michael J Kane

      • wallace johnston says:

        Glad to be of Help.

        Somewhere in your “Web Stuff” I recall reading you mention a “SNAP- Sit” precut version for those who do not have a CNC Router? Perhaps for those who could use a Coping Saw on the various pieces cantilevered off of the kitchen table edge in an apartment.

        Or perhaps, an “IKEA Like”, Flat Pack version for the “Shopless.”

        • Turner Osler says:

          Wallace,
          Yes, a “CNCless” approach that uses standard shop tools is on the way, created by one of our many friends. It should be up on our Buttonchairs.org website within two weeks. We’ve also partnered with furniture maker here in Vermont to make flat pack “IKEA Like” ButtOn Chairs, but they won’t be available until December. Everything takes longer in reality than in my imagination…
          -turner

  5. Sam Pellegrino says:

    I am interested in sizing one of your chairs for my ageing adult body. I’m 5’8″-ish, and wonder how I would scale the “kids chair” up to my height. Or, is Leg Length the more critical measurement? I’d like to use the “CNCless” approach, and can wait for those drawings to be made available. Winter Project!

  6. Wallace Johnston says:

    Are We There Yet? “And PS, if you don’t have access to a CNC router, we will soon have ButtOn chairs available for purchase.”

    Is the “Christmas PACK/KIT ” ready to order?
    I have 2 granddaughters in VT, 2 in Texas and one in OKC.

    • Lex Osler says:

      Hey Wallace,

      We will have the button chair available to purchase on our website in the next month. So keep checking back! They make great Christmas gifts.

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