These Margaret Beeks Elementary students are moving through their lessons, bouncing at times, behind their desks on exercise balls.
"The research basically says kids learn best through moving so when they're on a ball," said first grade teacher Amanda Rawlins. "They're forced to balance so their core is always engaged." Rawlins says when she came across research supporting chairless classrooms, she had to try it. With the support of her principal, she bought and paid for the balls out of pocket for her entire class last year.
"A lot of people would say you're gonna put a kid on a ball and they're gonna bounce, and bounce and bounce and bounce and not pay attention," she said. "But really what it does is let the kids bounce for a few minutes and then work."
That's where Rawlins says she notices the most difference. After setting a few ground rules at the beginning of the year, like keep your bottoms on the chair and feet on the floor, Rawlins says she saw her students would lightly bounce to get a momentary mental break and get right back to work. She found they require fewer breaks, pay attention better and seem happier overall. "We would go thirty minutes without a break because their break was the active listening of bouncing as they were learning."
Rawlins brought the balls back in her classroom again this year. A second first grade and fifth grade class are also trying it now with the same positive results.
"If we have a test and we get a bit nervous and we have to fidget we have a ball there," said fifth grader Katie Racek. The kids also think they're simply fun. "I think they are very fun and very productive and I'm glad we have them," she said.
They've found it's a practical way to avoid forcing kids to sit still for a long stretch at a time. "They get to move all day long and that's what kids should be doing," Rawlins said. "They should be allowed to move."