Establishing balance in their classroom

Cape Horn-Skye students use stability balls to help keep focus

Aiden Baalaer (left) and Christian Smith enjoy using the new stability balls in their fourth-grade classroom at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary School in Washougal.

Fourth-grade students in Alice Yang’s class at Cape Horn-Skye Elementary are learning balance, specifically, with stability balls.

“I researched ways to help students who had difficulties sitting still and learned about the advantages of using stability balls in the classroom,” Yang said. “So a few months ago, I posted a project on DonorsChoose.org for a class set of stability balls to replace chairs.”

The project was fully funded and the students have been using the balls for about a month.

Some found it a bit challenging in the beginning, but things have leveled out.

“The first week was a little bouncy, as the kids were very excited to get to use them,” Yang admitted. “After a lot of practice with knowing when it was OK to bounce and when it was time to sit still, I have noticed a big improvement in students staying in their seats. The balls are also used as an incentive to finish work on time and I’ve never had such high turn-in rates.”

Andrew Seitz welcomed the stability ball over a regular chair. “They are really fun and more comfortable, plus they help you focus,” he said. “When you get stuck on a problem you can bounce a little and that will get more blood to your brain. That will bring more ideas to your mind.”

Seitz added that the balls are easy to balance on and help with posture.

The class also does exercises in the morning such as singing the “Nifty Fifty United States” song and bouncing and slapping the ball in rhythm.

“Research shows that the tiny movements kids make while balancing actually help stimulate the prefrontal cortex which does a lot of things, including inhibiting impulses,” Yang said. “Studies also show that because of the constant use of core muscles to balance on the chairs, students burn up a lot of excess energy throughout the day.”

In addition to better posture, stability balls help students focus in class, especially children with high energy or ADHD, she added.

In many studies, the use of stability balls also improves handwriting and small motor skills.

DonorsChoose.org, an online charity, was responsible for providing a venue that led to outfitting the classroom with the stability balls. Public school teachers from throughout the country post classroom project requests on the site, and donors sign up to give any amount to the project that inspires them the most.

When a project reaches its funding goal, Donors Choose ships the materials to the school. Teachers follow up with photos of the project taking place, a letter and insight into how the money was spent.

“I’m hoping to see continued focus and improvement in quality of work, but also increased physical health,” Yang said. “When the students feel good, they work better.

“The stability balls also help them feel more motivated about coming to school.”