Most people can remember the terribly uncomfortable, supposedly ergonomic school chairs.
Two classes at Campus Community School have opted out of the hard plastic seats and have replaced them with something unlikely – inflatable exercise balls.
Stacey L. Clark, administrator of students and families at Campus Community, came across articles on the Internet that extolled the benefits of stability ball chairs. So she took the idea to Shana Noll, a grade four and five teacher, and Khristina Thompson, a grade two and three teacher, who got the ball rolling – so to speak.
“We got on donorschoose.com, a website for teachers to get funding,” Clark said. “Parents, board members and community members all donated money.”
With the funds, each teacher purchased half the number of balls that they would need for their students, just so they could test the waters. Now, both teachers have enough balls for the 46 students that make up the two classrooms. Part of trial run involves teaching students how to sit on the balls, as well as having students sign a contract promising that they would “take care of their chair.”
“If they use their ball improperly, they lose the privilege and have to go back to a chair,” Clark said. “They don’t like that.”
Thompson’s students were eased into the new set-up. Students would spend 15 to 20 minutes on the ball chairs and then switch back to a traditional chair. This helped students slowly build their core strength.
“One of the goals is to build their core strength, improve their posture and improve their balance,” Noll said. “Keeping themselves stable on the ball requires core strength.”
Students aren’t forced to sit on the stability balls if they don’t want to – they have to option of sitting in a normal chair. But according to Noll, all of her students that have been diagnosed with ADHD have opted to use the ball chairs.
“They definitely help with students that have ADHD or special sensory needs because it allows them to concentrate better because they are remaining active. They can move a bit more than they can in a normal school chair,” Noll said.
Each ball costs $25 and requires no additional equipment. The inflation of the balls can be adjusted based on the height of the child to fit under a typical school table. Noll even worked the inflation process into her math lesson.
“When we first blew them up we did a math exercise looking at the height of the ball versus the height of the kid,” Noll said.
Page 2 of 2 - Thompson and Noll are the pilot groups for the stability ball chairs and they’re hoping that the data they gather from their students will encourage their board to expand their use at the school.
One of the ways that the teachers have gone about collecting data is through physical education classes. At the beginning of the stability ball program students were tested based on their flexibility, balance and core strength. They will be tested again soon to determine how effective the chairs have been.