Some educators are questioning the wisdom of making children sit still in class. The San Jose Mercury News recently visited a San Rafael, California classroom where the teacher replaced chairs with balance balls.
Ally Mitchell encourages her 23 kindergartners to wiggle around on their balance ball while learning the alphabet and how to count. The Sun Valley Elementary School teacher is using a creative application of research that suggests children focus better on complicated mental tasks when allowed to move.
Researchers at the University of Central Florida discovered that children—especially hyperactive pupils—were more fidgety when asked not only to store, but also to process information, according to the National Education Association. That’s why students sit still to watch movies, but become restless when solving math problems, NEA explains.
Mitchell told the newspaper that she introduced the balance balls into her classroom because “some kids need more wiggle time.” It didn’t take long for all of Mitchell’s students to ask to sit on a ball instead of their chair.
“They loved it,” she added. “I thought, ‘Why not let everyone do it?’”
Mitchell’s principal, Julie Harris, supports the experiment. “It’s something so simple, but it makes a big difference,” she told the Mercury News. “In combination with all the practices we have at our school, including mindfulness training, it helps to make students more engaged learners.”
There’s an added benefit. Balancing on the balls require slight movements that develop muscle groups in the back and abs, as well as burns calories.
NEA highlights a study co-authored by Dr. Donald Dengel, an associate professor at the University of Minnesota. His team found that students working at a standing desk burned 114 more kilocalories per day (the equivalent of half a candy bar) than students who sat all day at their desk.
“That doesn’t sound like a lot, but if you add that up, for five days a week, it’s about two and a half candy bars per week, and over the course of the school year, it adds up to almost six pounds,” Dengel said to NEA.
Principal Harris told the Mercury News that she wants to nurture creative thinking among her teachers, including utilizing a break from the traditional approach of forcing students to sit still for six hours.
SOURCE: San Jose Mercury News | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty