Students on a roll with classroom change
Posted: Tuesday, September 7, 2010 9:15 pm
Mellany Warner’s third-grade students are really on the ball this year.
Literally — they’re on the ball.
Her class at Union City Elementary School is trying out a new method of learning where the students are using stability balls — sometimes referred to as yoga balls — instead of traditional chairs at their desks.
Their Tennessee orange-colored balls are also called burst resistant balls, but the students and their teacher refer to them simply as “burbs” for short.
Mrs. Warner and Union City School System Coordinated School Health director Kristen Miles have worked closely to implement the use of the burbs, and Mrs. Warner considers it a privilege for her students to be the school system’s pilot class for the special learning in motion opportunity.
Both Mrs. Warner and Mrs. Miles have extensively researched the use of the stability balls in the classroom and have found there are many learning and health benefits associated with their use. They include enhancing attention and concentration, improving comprehension and channeling fidgety behavior, as well as improving posture, balance and coordination and strengthening core muscles.
Mrs. Warner — a self-described “out of the box” teacher — asked to try the stability balls two years ago and, when the opportunity for the school system to try them presented itself this year, she was approached by UCES principal Michael Paul Miller and Mrs. Miles.
Mrs. Miles said in doing her research, she found a teacher in nearby Paris who has used the balls for three years and loves them.
To prepare for the unique experience, before school started, Mrs. Warner sent letters to her students and their parents to tell them about the use of the burbs during this school year. She explained to them that she has researched the concept extensively and outlined the many health benefits.
“… I am thrilled about the health benefits our students will receive,” she wrote. “The use of a stability ball assists in improving posture, enhances attention and concentration, improves learning through movement, incorporates wellness into the school day, promotes ‘active sitting’ with little to no disturbance, improves blood flow to all parts of the body — especially the brain, strengthens core (postural) and back muscle groups, improves balance and coordination and it adjusts for customized fit to the individual.”
She also outlined some simple rules in effect for all students and guests who use the burbs, such as keeping the balls on the floor at all times and not disturbing others with movement. The burbs are equipped with “feet” that resemble cow udders in order to help keep the ball stable.
The students and their parents were introduced to the burbs on school registration day last month and were asked to sign a form to indicate they understand and will follow the guidelines.
“It is a privilege to be the only class at UCES with this learning opportunity, so we must respect these guidelines every day,” Mrs. Warner said.
Having a ball
Mrs. Warner said she has “a wonderful group” of students who have enthusiastically and eagerly embraced the opportunity to use the stability balls in class.
So far, she has had only one student who could not handle his burb one day and had to have a regular chair for the rest of the day, but this has never happened again.
“They would rather have their burbs and know they will lose them if they don’t respect them,” she said.
As a reward for their hard work, the students are treated to study breaks that involve using the balls in activities set to music — including oldies such as “The Locomotion” — in order to channel their energy and incorporate some extra physical activity into their day.
The students’ core muscle strength was tested at the start of the school year and will be tested again at the end of the school year with a simple test in which they raise their feet to see how long they can hold the position.
Mrs. Miles said many other students at the elementary school are jealous of Mrs. Warner’s class and hope they have the opportunity to try the burbs. She said she believes school officials will be taking a closer look at some other classes that may want to try them next year.
“Mellany has paved the way,” she said.
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at email@example.com.
published in The Messenger 9.7.10