Special Education

Going Chairless

By Liana Loewus — August 06, 2012 1 min read
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A 4th grade teacher in Indiana has traded in all her students’ chairs for exercise balls, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Angelika Thompson decided to experiment with the large rubber stability balls—most often seen in the “ab area” at the gym—last year, after a parent requested that her son sit on one while he worked. A manager at a nearby Walmart donated enough balls for the entire class.

The Star reports there is research backing the health benefits of having students sit on the balls:

A study at the Mayo Clinic supports chairless classrooms, saying that exercise balls improve students' posture and muscle strength. Students also can burn off excess energy. And their concentration may improve.

Students in Thompson’s class—who must abide by the rules in order to keep their exercise balls—have been happy with the new seating arrangement. Some students were quoted as saying they’re “more comfortable than chairs.” Another student explained, “It helps us get out a lot of energy we’re trying to hold in.”

Special education teachers have long known the benefits of having students with autism and ADHD sit on stability balls to release energy, but general education teachers may find the thought of 30 bodies bouncing and swaying during class daunting—and rightfully so. However, Thompson said she hasn’t found them distracting. In fact, every so often she gives students permission to bounce and “get the wiggles out.”

Teachers: Is this something you’d consider trying—or have already tried? What are the pros and cons, as you see them? Do you have other techniques for incorporating exercise into class or just letting kids release energy they’re “trying to hold in”?

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.