Mayo Clinic obesity researchers test 'classroom of the future'

ROCHESTER, Minn. -- "Can you imagine a school without desks? A school where children are moving as part of their lessons? And most importantly, they are smiling and healthy?" asks Mayo Clinic obesity researcher James Levine, M.D., Ph.D. If so, you have imagined the latest anti-obesity concept-project from Mayo Clinic -- the classroom of the future.

Obesity among the young is a national epidemic according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than 15 percent of children in the United States are already overweight and the problem continues to grow. It is anticipated that half the children in America are likely to have weight problems during their lifetimes. The result is increasing health problems, including a staggering rise in type II diabetes, previously prevalent only in adults. A major culprit, along with poor-quality diet, is a lack of activity at school and at home.

Dr. Levine, who directs the Active Life research team, is targeting childhood obesity. He and child researcher Lorraine Lanningham-Foster, Ph.D., are testing a revolutionary concept in how society thinks of a school classroom.

They have asked a simple question: do children really need to sit at desks while they learn? To find the answer they have designed what they believe to be the first chairless school -- complete with "standing" desks and a host of sophisticated learning technologies. Most important to the equation are the children -- whom they find are eager to learn in a new way.

How They Did It -- Collaboration

"We assembled a team of business and organization leaders who all recognize the urgency to resolve inactivity in children and realize that the future has to look different from our past," says Dr. Levine. The Rochester Athletic Club built an indoor village to house the school of the future, Apple provided iBook wireless notebook computers and iPods that play video, and America on the Move (a community-based advo


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