By BRAD GASKINS
MARTIN — Veteran educator Kim Castleman wasn’t sure exactly what to think at the beginning of this school year when her classroom was chosen to pilot a program at Martin Primary School.
Instead of sitting in chairs this year, students in her second-grade classroom sit on stability balls.
After a few days adjusting to the new seating arrangements, Castleman said she came to like the stability balls. She now touts the program for its academic and wellness benefits to students.
“We had to talk about the right way to sit on them and the proper way they’re used,” Castleman said, referring to her students.
“It creates some action and activity without being distracted,” she said.
While it took Castleman, a teacher for 23 years, a few days to adjust, the students immediately took to the stability balls.
“The kids absolutely loved them,” she said.
Sitting on the stability balls is not mandatory, but no child has declined so far.
During standardized testing in October, Castleman said her students fared much better. Although breaks and stretching exercises were still performed, they didn’t seem as necessary.
“They were much more comfortable and obviously paid much more attention,” Castleman said.
After the stability balls were introduced, Castleman said she didn’t think much about them. They became just another part of her classroom.
In addition to her classroom, the stability balls are in seven other classrooms across the county: two at Martin Elementary, four at Dresden Elementary and one at Sharon.
The stability balls were first introduced into the school system last year, when they were piloted in a second-grade classroom at Dresden Elementary. The stability balls were introduced into the other classrooms at the beginning of this school year.
If the teacher perceives students becoming restless, he or she can call for a “concentration bounce” – a slight up and down bouncing motion to work off some restless energy.
“It releases some energy and it keeps their blood flowing to their brain and all those kinds of things, which then helps them to pay attention longer.”
Castleman said she could understand if some teachers preferred not to perform the concentration bounces.
In addition to the academic benefits, the stability balls also provide physical benefits to students, according to Amy Tuck, the director of coordinated school health for Weakley County Schools.
“From a health and wellness perspective, it does strengthen their core muscles as they have to adjust to sitting on a ball,” Tuck said. “They do that very well.”
The stability balls improve posture and blood flow, incorporates wellness into the classroom and promotes learning through movement.
Coordinated school health funds the stability balls, which cost $40 each. There are 25 in Castleman’s classroom, including the one she uses.
Tuck said the stability balls would expand to more classrooms next year, so long as funding is available and the school principals and teachers embrace the concept.
Published in The WCP 3.14.13