Having a ball in school Local school first to trade chairs for stability ball program
Posted: 12/8/06 by Laura Adelmann

This week newspapers Christian Heritage Academy in Lakeville is encouraging students to get on the ball during class. Literally. This week, students in grades 6, 7 and 8 will begin earning a chance to trade in their chairs for balls, or “ball chairs” as Lisa Witt, president of WittFitt likes to call them. Witt, a former teacher, has developed a unique program that replaces traditional chairs with stability balls to help improve posture, increase attention and decrease squirming at home, work and in schools. Christian Heritage Academy (CHA), a private school at Cedar Avenue and Dodd Boulevard, is the first school in Minnesota to use Witt’s program. CHA Principal Gail Wolfe said the balls will be used in math and history classes, where teacher Carmen Scherman noticed some students’ attention and focus was lacking. “Some of the kids were sluggish, especially during classes at the end of the day,” said Wolfe. Instead of students wriggling in uncomfortable chairs, on the balls they can gently bounce in place or roll back and forth to keep alert. The balls require students to use their back and stomach muscles, strengthening these core muscle groups in the process, said Witt. But if the introduction of balls into a classroom for purposes of reigning-in attention seems contradictory, Witt dismisses teacher’s nightmarish pictures of wild kids playing ball bumper cars during class. Her program is designed so the students don’t get the ball chairs until they’ve completed a series of prepared short lessons that include teaching their proper use. “Part of the lesson is also that the kids are creating rules they have to abide by. They sign a contract which sets those parameters” she said. Some of the more common rules limit how much kids bounce and how far their feet are off the floor. The lessons, in addition to meeting some state standards, introduce students to the benefits of using the balls and demonstrates correct posture and proper use of the equipment. Witt said the balls encourage proper posture, which increases blood flow and breathing, all things that brain research has shown improves the brain’s ability to absorb information. Students are measured to ensure proper fit of the balls, which come in various sizes and have feet on the bottom to prevent rolling. The balls may also be inflated or deflated to ensure each student is positioned in an ergonomically correct fashion, and modifications can be made to accommodate students with special needs. Having a ball in school 2 of 4 3/17/2008 10:42 AM Because the balls require extensive use of back and stomach muscles, it can take some time to get used to the change. To accommodate the transition at CHA, traditional chairs will be replaced with the balls incrementally. Any students who abuse the privilege. Witt said, should have them taken away and be relegated to the regular chair. Last week, Witt visited the school to give Scherman and physical education teacher Linda Paschka a hands-on training session. Paschka, who first suggested the school look into the program after reading an article about WittFitt, will also use the balls in her gym classes. Witt said other schools around the nation are beginning to use the balls, and they have been used successfully in Europe for years. Costs for materials, training and equipment vary depending on the situation, but range from about $800 to $5,000. Witt says she does not sell the balls without the training but can do the training over the phone for schools wishing to save money. For more information, visit