The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 9, 2012

Teacher keeps students on the ball

By Sarah Plummer
Register-Herald Reporter

— One Shady Spring Elementary class has learned the perfect balance of movement and learning.

Third-grade teacher Audrey Long said she first heard of students sitting on exercise balls in classrooms at a RESA (Regional Education Service Agencies) Health and Wellness seminar at Concord University. Her first reaction was, “I need those in my classroom.”

Research has shown that students who have active bodies have active minds, she explained.

“If they are allowed to have some movement during class, it helps to activate their brain cells. This is being done in larger cities, and studies have found students are learning better on balls than on chairs,” she said.

Students in Long’s class must sit with their feet on the floor, but can move and bounce on their balls within their desk space during class.

And while her class is in slight motion during the day, they are completely engaged in the class, she said.

“Most people told me I was crazy to want to replace my chairs with balls. They told me I had lost my mind. But the kids love them and they don’t get in trouble with them,” she explained. “I have had less behavioral problems this year than I have in the past and it’s in part because they have the balls.”

Long said the balls function to reinforce good behavior. If a student acts out, they will have to sit in a chair for a day. Because the students love the exercise balls so much, withholding them is a great incentive to behave.

“Boys are naturally more active than girls at this age and with 14 boys and seven girls on the roster, the exercise balls have really helped to keep them engaged,” she added.

For several years, exercise balls have been used by adults in office settings to help posture and strengthen the body’s core muscles. Long said her students are getting this benefit, too. Before the students were completely accustomed the balls, they could tell they were using their core muscles more.

Long also takes “Brain Breaks” with her class, allowing them to bounce in place on the balls for 2 to 3 minutes to music to get their minds energized.

This innovative classroom project was sponsored by Shady Spring Ruritan and Seams Easy alterations shop.

— E-mail: splummer@register-herald.com