LOWELL | When Kassie Hanger's first-graders at Three Creeks Elementary School found out they were getting new Wittfit stability balls through a grant funded by the Tri-Creek Education Foundation Inc., they may have thought recess was moving into the classroom.
But the stability balls are actually an educational tool meant to help students focus better on their classroom work. That's because they don't toss them - they sit on them.
"First off, they are a fun diversion from the typical seating that students are used to, so they are initially excited to use them," Hangar said. "We then discussed the correct way to sit and how posture affects their academics and the health of their bodies in general.
"The first week, the students move a lot on the balls, experimenting with them. We go over the rules that they must keep their bottom on the ball, their backs nice and straight, and their feet on the floor.'
Hanger said the students even sign a contract stating that they will comply with the rules or lose their ball for a week. Parents are included in the contract signing.
"After the first week, the students became more accustomed to them and you can look around and see who your bouncers are, who your students are that are going to always sit still, and the students that do a bit of bouncing and sitting still," Hanger added.
The students that are the most impacted, Hanger said are those with high energy. "It allows for them to 'actively move' without being a distraction," Hanger noted.
"Positive results come in the form of improved posture and balance, better handwriting, less distractions, more awareness of their body, and better attention and focus during the day," Hanger added.
"Teachers have to be able to be open to more movement in their classroom to enjoy the benefits of the stability balls," Hanger said. "Therefore, the stability balls are great in some classrooms and may not be the best choice for others. In our first grade classroom, the stability balls work."
In addition to Hanger, first-grade teachers Joanna Tinich and Kelly Smith, and fifth-grade teacher Linsey Waterstraat, received stability balls for their students. The consensus among the Three Creeks colleagues: "Our students love the stability balls," Hanger said.