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Is There One Size of Cafeteria Table That's Best?

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: I was at a PTA meeting this morning and the subject of the cafeteria came up. We have round tables that hold five children and rectangular ones that hold about ten. The problem is making sure the children aren't leaving others out. If they select the smaller table, it's easy to do this. But the principal feels that the larger tables are noisier because the kids must yell to their friends.

Is there a study that identifies the best cafeteria set up? What size should the tables be? Should there be carpet for noise reduction? Should certain color schemes be used? What kind of lighting is best?

A: I truly applaud your goal of wanting every child to feel secure and included. But quite frankly, you -- or the entire PTA -- cannot assure that by forcing the issue. Instead I encourage you to look into programs that teach children acceptance of diversity in its true meaning; and programs that teach children how to deal with rejection.

As for the cafeteria tables, carpet etc., there have been studies done on those very issues. You can probably find those articles in educational research journals and magazines. Round tables certainly lend to more conversation and are more conducive to having students sit next to and face others. But the shape of tables, carpet, music -- none of these will make a difference if children aren't taught manners and respect for one another.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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