7 Ways to Promote Students’ Ergonomic Health during COVID-19

By Katie Riley posted 09-08-2020 16:46


AOTA’s National School Backpack Safety Awareness Day is fast-approaching: Wednesday, September 16. Typically on this day and throughout September, students across the U.S. and around the world participate in a variety of activities to learn about safe backpack use. With the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) changing the way that students are accessing education – all virtual, in the physical classroom, or a hybrid option — AOTA recognizes that this campaign needs to shift focus a bit this year.

Here are some ways to join this year’s campaign that promote social distancing and recognize that many students are learning from home:

  1. Share AOTA’s tips for safe backpack use on social media. Throughout September (and especially on September 16) we will share tips for packing and wearing a backpack with the hashtag #backpacksafety on Twitter and Instagram, and also on our Facebook page. Here are a few sample messages that you are welcome to copy and share:
    • Today is @AOTAInc’s National School Backpack Safety Awareness Day. Check out for tips on preventing neck and back pain for your student. #BackpackSafety
    • Today is @AOTAInc’s National School Backpack Safety Awareness Day. Are you students learning virtually? Share AOTA’s Back to School Guide:   
    • While backpacks may not cause virtual learners pain in the back or neck, poor posture at a desk can cause discomfort. Check out AOTA’s Tips for Virtual Learning Spaces: #BackpackSafety
    • Do you know how much your child’s backpack weighs? If it’s more than 10% of their body weight, it’s too heavy. Check out @AOTAInc’s tips for lightening the load. #BackpackSafety
  2. Talk to your local media. A weigh-in event has all the elements of a great news story. With your venue’s permission, invite your local media to cover your event. Not hosting an in-person event? Offer yourself as an interview subject, or write a letter to the editor about the hazards of heavy backpack use. Journalists crave stories about adapting to COVID-19; share your expertise about ergonomic health and AOTA’s tips for virtual learning.
  3. Distribute information about safe backpack use and virtual learning. “Did you know that AOTA recommends that backpacks weigh no more than 10% of the student’s body weight?” This is a great opening line if you’re approaching people at a community event, or manning a table of materials at a community center or school. You can man a table for a few hours and hand out resources, giveaways, and more. Bulletin boards are great as well if you don’t have the time to commit to manning a table or are social distancing. You can download and print AOTA’s free Backpack Day handouts here. You do not need our permission as long as you’re distributing them as-is, not altering the logo, and not pretending that the information is yours. Infographics, charts, pictures, and more can also be used for Power Point presentations. Many items are available in both printer-friendly and digital versions so that you can print for posters or share electronically.
  4. Work with a school to host small in-person group meetings or a virtual assembly. You can talk to kids at a school about the hazards of carrying a backpack that is too heavy. Ask your school administrator if you can record a 2-minute message to be shared virtually with students about the importance of posture and taking breaks during distance learning.
  5. Evaluate home work stations virtually. Typically, schools host backpack weigh-in events to mark Backpack Day. For 2020, we recommend reviewing AOTA’s tips for setting up a home virtual learning space and using them to help students evaluate their space and routines via Zoom. Or, share the tips with educators so they can be worked into the “social/emotional learning” courses that many school districts have started this year to help students cope with the demands of distance learning.
  6. Hold a backpack weigh-in event. Following social distancing and hygienic guidelines, check with a local school, grab a few scales and printouts of AOTA’s backpack weigh-in sheet, and hold a backpack weigh-in event. (Note: Be sure to have a sensitive scale that can measure small weights. A digital bathroom scale will not always work on light bags.) Let participants know that their bag should weigh no more than 10% of their body weight and share tips for packing and wearing a backpack with all students.
  7. Share information with the PTA. School PTAs and PTOs are always looking for ways to show their commitment to students. Encourage your PTA to support students’ health by allowing you to speak at an in-person or virtual meeting as a guest, or include a few paragraphs in a school newsletter or email blast. If your PTA is looking for an activity for families, suggest a coloring contest that can be done at home, and sent back to the school, or shared online. Download the OT Rex Junior Coloring page here.

For more handouts, artwork, and inspiration for backpack day events, visit and click on the “Backpack Day Handouts, Artwork, and Video” section.

For more information about Backpack Day, visit or email me at


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