A new grant from SEF provides for stability balls in all the first grade classrooms at Franklin School. Using stability balls as seats in the classroom, as an alternative to the traditional classroom chair, helps children focus better on instruction. When we slouch, we have the tendency to become relaxed and inattentive. When sitting on stability balls, our bodies continuously make muscular adjustments and keep us attentive. This “active sitting” has shown to also improve flexibility, coordination, balance and handwriting. Stability balls satisfy a child's need for movement (by balancing on the ball) during academic instruction.

Brain research has shown that there is a link between movement and positive academic performance. Sitting on balls makes a student sit up straighter which increases blood flow to the brain and all parts of the body. Combining movement and increasing blood flow should result in the ability to stay on task throughout the day and thus, increase academic learning. According to Roland Katz, an ADHD expert, students with ADHD need to “fidget to focus”. Stability balls allow such movement in a controlled manner without disturbance in the classroom. Proper posture at a young age is important because this is when their bodies are growing the most. When a child has poor posture, they are increasing their chances of developing spinal deformities like scoliosis, kyphosis, and lordosis. Using a stability ball decreases a child's chance of developing these deformities by forcing them to maintain good posture. Students are measured to fit the appropriate size stability ball based on their height and other body dimensions such that the knees are slightly lower than the hips. Furthermore, the use of stability balls should help students become more physically fit because core muscles are engaged and strengthened.

First grader Nicholas Y. says, “It helps you get strong with your muscles and it’s good if you need to do active sitting because if you go onto a chair you can’t do active sitting and you could get hurt if you try to move too much.” Ella C. adds, “The stability balls help you with your posture and help you sit straight. It’s also very comfortable. Sometimes if you sit on a chair too long your bottom starts to go “I want to get up, I want to get up” and that doesn’t happen on our balls.” Enzo D. explains, “It feels good and it’s squishy and I like to bounce a little on it. It helps me sit better and read and write better.” Aneyaa D. further adds, “You can bounce on the balls and move around. Also, it’s the perfect size for each person!”

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Kate Warren, Franklin School first grade teacher and grant co-author along with Ms. Tasia Walker, states that, “The stability balls have had a very positive impact on the students' posture, attention, and concentration. The children are excited to return to their balls after lessons on the rug and they enjoy the "active sitting" which allows them to move without disturbing their classmates. I have already noticed a dramatic improvement in the balance and coordination of the students while using the balls. An additional benefit has been an improvement in handwriting. The students are now sitting on stability balls that are customized to fit their height which allows them to use the proper posture as they write.”

Thanks to SEF, learning and sitting in the classroom is now not just fun, but healthy too!