Interesting article from Pat Smith of the Greensburg Daily News
A sixth grade classroom without chairs? Instead of chairs, the classroom at North Decatur Elementary has red and blue inflatable stability balls, sometimes called exercise balls or balance balls. There is no difference in the red and blue balls except the color. Any stability ball can be deflated or inflated to meet a student’s height. In order to be effective a student must sit on the ball at a 90 degree angle.
Janeen Burkhart is the sixth grade teacher at North Decatur Elementary in whose room the stability balls are being used. If student scores are any measure, these students sitting on stability balls are also coming in ahead of others in the district in reading.
Burkhart taught at an Indianapolis Public Schools magnet school last year but always wanted to teach at North Decatur. She learned about the stability balls during her time at the school. Magnet schools usually have a special curricular focus and are schools of choice based on a student’s interest rather than where they live, although students still have a subjects generally associated with regular public schools.
When she got the job at North Decatur, she wanted to give her students the opportunity of using stability balls instead of chairs. She applied to the Decatur County Community Foundation and received a grant. Next she applied to Donors Choose.org online and received a grant. Even the students in her class helped raise money for the project.
Is it worth it? Yes, said the dedicated teacher. “The students’ acuity scores are seven percent above the district on average.” The district average is 44 percent and this class is 51 percent in the classes she has from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. which includes reading, language and writing. It is hard to know for sure about math because there are kids in different classes. She attributes this to the fact that healthy active kids make better learners and these ball seats increase blood flow and allow students to be more attentive.” It increases their learning ability.”
At first there were only a few stability balls and still some chairs. The students took to them immediately. “We had to take turns so we had to have a schedule,” said Burkhart. The students must take turns on the one stand up desk in the room. While at this desk the student can move his or her foot back and forth constantly while studying. “Being in motion allows the brain to be engaged,” she said. There is evidence that by engaging the core muscles improves concentration and focus. Kids do get fidgety and this allows that to be addressed in a positive way.
Burkhart also incorporates a lot of music which they call “brain breaks.” “Tuck the ball under your desks,” are the key words. That means two minutes of music and fun and is a motivational tool for learning. At first the students walk around the room to the music then the teacher calls directions like “elbow to elbow” or similar directions. The students have fun but are perfectly orderly. After two minutes of moving around they were ready to be seated and begin working again.
For a recent writing assignment a student wrote a note to Mrs. Burkhart:
Dear Mrs. Burkhart, This letter is to inform you about what is going on in class. This is a very serious manner. All of the kids in your class have informed me that you are the best teacher ever. The kids are learning the best they ever have. They seem to like the activities that they get to do in class. The brain breaks, exercise ball seats, classdojo rewards and standup desk seem to be improving the kids in your class’s grades. The kids advise that you keep it up. Sincerely yours, Ethan Wood.
When Mrs. Burkhart asks if any of the students wanted to say something about the stability balls or anything else about the class, Logan Koehne said, “I think they (stability balls) are important. If we don’t pay attention we could fall off and that keeps our attention. We are learning a lot better because on chairs we could slouch back. On these stability balls we can’t do that.”
That pretty well says it all.
Read the original story here.