Lincoln School didn’t wait for a New Year’s resolution to reap the benefits of getting active. Instead, students and staff have incorporated everyday movement into each of the 12 classrooms, and the benefits are abundant.
What started as a goal of Lincoln School Principal, Cindy DeVlaeminck, to acquire one classroom set of new and used stationary bikes through donations, has evolved into something much greater. All of the classrooms at Lincoln School are now equipped with tools designed to get kids moving naturally. “There is lots of evidence pointing to the connection between physical movement and improved achievement and behavior within the classroom,” said DeVlaeminck. Teachers have all embraced the concept, and the benefits are evident. The different types of equipment found in the classrooms include bicycle pedals, standing desks, wiggle chairs and exercise balls.
Incorporating exercise and movement throughout the school day makes students less fidgety and more focused on learning. With classrooms evolving to meet student needs, Lincoln Elementary teacher, Amy Blau, sees the equipment benefitting her students, and said, “The kids stay more focused. The classroom doesn’t look as traditional with everyone sitting quietly at their desks, but that is not reality anymore. I couldn’t sit in a chair for six hours a day, and kids can’t either.” After talking with her students at the beginning of the year about how to safely use the equipment, Blau allows them to choose when they need to get up and move. “When you see yourself being unfocused or are feeling tired and needing to move, it is a good choice to move to a standing desk or grab some pedals. The kids can move, but they are still focused. It is a productive way to burn off energy which causes fewer classroom distractions,” Blau added.
Improving on-task behavior and reducing classroom management challenges are among the most obvious benefits of adding physical activities to the classroom, and that was the reason for Lincoln School teacher, Kim Phelps, to swap desk chairs for exercise balls. Phelps implemented this strategy last year due to attention issues with many of her students. “I tried the balls with a few of the students, and I felt that most kids, even those without attention issues, could benefit. I did a lot of research of how it connects your brain and your core,” said Phelps. Seeing the benefit, she decided to write a grant through the Spencer Community School Foundation, and it was awarded. Phelps was able to purchase an entire classroom set thanks to the grant. She used the balls for half of the last school year, and since the beginning of this school year, and the students have responded well. “At the beginning of the year, some of the students can’t sit on the ball all day, so we have chairs available, but as their core gets stronger, they are able to sit on the ball longer. At times, students do choose to sit on chairs, and they can swap them out for their ball at any time. Last year it was a tough class for attention, and it really helped, and though I don’t have the behavior issues as much this year, students still get time to exercise, and they can even stay focused a bit longer,” added Phelps.
There are now two standing desks in each classroom, and in most cases, students just rotate through so everyone has a chance to use them. The students are able to stand during instruction, while working independently and for basically any aspect of the school day. For Alex, this is the first year he has been a student in a classroom with a standing desk, and he finds it beneficial. “It keeps me moving and not just sitting down, and it keeps my blood pumping too. All student feedback was positive, with the overarching theme pointing to standing as their preference. Another student, Gensley added that she likes the standing desk because when students get antsy, they can go to the standing desks, and it helps calm them down.
Use of the equipment doesn’t interfere with regular classroom instruction or activities, but rather is keeps students on task and academically engaged for longer periods of time. The only problem according to DeVlaeminck is that each classroom could use more equipment. Through classroom observations, she sees that the equipment is always in use, and often times, there might be a student or two waiting for a turn. “We would like to have more equipment so that more students can benefit,” said DeVlaeminck.