Friday, September 20th, 2013
By William Kincaid
New seats keep Fort students on the ball
District experiments with tool to increase youngster's concentration
  FORT RECOVERY - How do you solve the wiggles? Replace students' boring and confining chairs with stability balls.
First-grade teachers at Fort Recovery Elementary are experimenting with the inflatable ball-seats that principal Tracy Hein-Evers hopes will improve classroom focus, core strength and student posture, among other things.
The idea was proposed by first-grade teacher Michelle Stammen.
"Michelle did a lot of research on it," Hein-Evers said. "(The balls) help kids who are hyperactive, (and help) all kids stay focused. There's just a lot of brain research on it."
The exercise balls help with blood flow because students are sitting up, she said. It keeps them more focused and on task, she added.
"It allows those fidgety kids to get that movement," Hein-Evers explained.
Using stability balls in the classroom is part of a larger effort to modernize schools based on research linking physical activity with better learning. Traditional desks and chairs are being challenged as teachers nationwide experiment with yoga balls, footrests and standing desks, which give children outlets to fidget without disrupting class.
Fort Recovery teachers presented the idea to parents during open building night last month.
"They started it right after Labor Day," Hein-Evers said. "We had the kids try it out for about a week, and then they had the option ... to go back to the chair, which we did have some ... but most of them stayed with it."
Students said the spheres are comfortable to sit on.
Teacher Kari Eilerman said she probably wouldn't mind sitting on one of the nontraditional seats, too, because she gets squirmy sometimes.
"I think it's good ... that they can move around a little more because at this age, they really need to get those wiggles out," she said. "Some of them realized after using it for two or three weeks that it wasn't for them so they took their chairs back. But most of them decided to keep them."
Students also are
learning about responsibility.
"A couple kids popped theirs, so if you destroy it, you don't get another one," Hein-Evers said. "They do have rules. They're not allowed to bounce them. They're not allowed to sit on them and bounce."
If they don't follow the rules, the chair is taken away, she said.
Hein-Evers will assess the effects of the stability balls in the spring before deciding whether to use them in other grades next year.
Stability balls, frequently used in exercise and physical therapy, have begun appearing in offices across the country after studies stressed the dangers of sedentary work environments.
The balls first began to surface in schools as aids for kids with attention problems or autism, said Michelle Rowe, executive director of the Kinney Center for Autism at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia.
The equipment has since gone mainstream.
"It takes away the taboo of wiggling, which most kids do anyway," said Rowe, who also is a professor of health services.
- The Associated Press contributed to this story
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