In the first year of my life my Grandad taught me to rock. I’m not sure how he did this but I guess he rocked my upper body back and forth while I was on his knee or in my pram. How he did it is not important – the family story is that he did. Rocking has stayed with me all my life. I’m hooked on it. Rocking to music is a particular favourite activity and I have memories of having done this for most of my life. Maybe there is a link here with another favourite activity of mine – drumming.
When I was preparing for my ‘A’ level exams my Grandma bought me an Ercol wooden rocking chair to use whilst I was revising. It helped – although I didn’t get brilliant ‘A’ levels I did well enough to get into University. (Incidentally – I’ve still got that rocking chair and I still love it).
I’ve never been sure what it is about rocking but it seems to enhance the experience of listening to music (I’m rocking to John Hiatt as I write this) and it somehow seems to make me enjoy the experience and concentrate more effectively at the same time. Now in my sixth decade I’ve discovered Varier chairs. I have a varier actulum that I use for working at my desk. I’ve had this chair for 9 years and I love it – and I believe that the actulum also makes a great dining chair. I also bought a varier peel chair and stool about 4 years ago. The peel is a fantastic chair that moves really easily as you change your body position and is the best ‘rocking chair’ that I’ve ever used. I’ve been so pleased with these ‘moving’ chairs that I’ve now also bought the varier kneeling chair for use at my desk as well.
When I read John Ratey’s book Spark! it became clear to me that movement and cognitive functions are closely linked (contrary to the myth that being good at sport is an alternative to academic achievement Ratey’s work shows just the opposite). Not surprising then that I think that when we are designing our learning and library spaces we should be open to including furniture that allows and encourages movement. The rationale here is that stimulation of areas of the brain that are involved in movement, by actually moving, also stimulates areas involved in cognitive activity – and learning.
Some time ago in a space consultancy project with Kings College Students’ Union that planned to develop a social learning space adjacent to a gym I talked about the exciting possibility that we should include only furniture that encouraged movement. The activity that results from simply sitting on gym balls and using rocking chairs, I thought, would link not only the social space with the gym but also mak the link between movement and learning.
I can’t think that many libraries, classrooms or other learning spaces exist with rocking chairs and gym balls but what fun would that be – and likely result in better learning.