Stable and studying
Teachers at Kennebunkport Consolidated School have begun employing fitness stability balls for their students, which will allow them not only stimulate their minds, but promote health and fitness as well. The students, who are in kindergarten through grade five, sit on stability balls instead of classroom chairs. The stability balls, which are 20 to 30 inches in diameter, are like typical fitness balls, but with protruding ridges on one side to keep the balls from rolling.
“They help you concentrate,” said Alex Champagne, a fifth grader at Kennebunkport Consolidated School. “You can’t move in the chair.”
Ann Stockbridge, president of the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel, said stability balls produce better classroom behavior, keep students engaged and build core muscles. “The whole concept is, if kids are allowed to move, it stimulates the brain for learning,” Stockbridge said.
Kennebunkport Consolidated School first graders Robyn Altham and Carter Lanigan, above, said they like using stability balls better than chairs. Above, students at Consolidated School use stability balls instead of chairs to promote exercise and increase memory and focus. (Adam Chabot photos)According to a notice released by the Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel, stability balls provide “active sitting,” which promotes brain stimulation, increases blood flow due to increased exercise and boosts memory, increases focus and attention and can create a low stress environment.
Jane Urban, a first-grade teacher at Consolidated School, said the best asset is that it allows students to move. “They need that movement throughout the day,” she said. “The kids have the option to use a chair but most prefer a ball. It allows them to engage their whole body when they’re working.”
Kennebunkport Consolidated School students hold signs reading “On The Ball In Class” showing their support for stability balls. (Adam Chabot photo)Two of Urban’s students, first-graders Carter Lanigan and Robyn Altham, said they like being able to use the balls.
“We can move around a little bit,” Lanigan said.
Jennifer Humphrey, who teaches fourth and fifth grades at Consolidated School, is an avid supporter of using the stability balls. She said the stability balls have been used in her classroom to promote exercise and students like the challenge.
Along with the classroom benefits, the stability balls provide “boost stations” or exercise stations, have been placed throughout Consolidated School to complement the stability balls. There are two stations the primary grades and two for grades three to five.
Humphrey said the “boost stations” provide students with opportunities to correctly and safely learn exercises such as planks or tabletops.
Fifth grader Caitlynn Wolff joined Champagne in demonstrating the proper technique of a tabletop exercise. The exercise requires students to lay their upper backs on the stability ball while keeping both feet flat on the ground and maintaining a straight posture.
“We know as adults when you’re being talked to at a conference, sitting and sitting, you might have to take a motor break to get water. Adults do this without realizing,” she said.
The Education Foundation of the Kennebunks and Arundel added 540 more stability balls district-wide and students in 35 elementary classrooms in Regional School Unit 21 use them. Since 2009, the foundation has invested $15,000 to provide stability balls in the classroom. The investment was complemented by a $1,239 donation by Quest Fitness of Kennebunk.
Quest Fitness raised the donation from a May 2011 Walk-a-Thon that challenged participants to track miles walked over the course of the month. “The community was really engaged in the fundraising,” said Richard Evans, a managing partner at Quest Fitness. “People thought it was a great cause.” Evans said Quest Fitness was happy to help get the use of stability balls in the classroom off the ground and that the project is a great fit. He said they were looking for something wellness oriented that would work for the whole school.