WittFitt congratulates Gannon for creating an amazing mobile STEM lab that will have the capacity to reach 100’s of students. Thank you for giving WittFitt the opportunity to be a small part by providing the Hokki seating. GO GANNON!
The Gannon Mobile STEM Lab is a project ten months in the making that will now spend the foreseeable future transforming the lives of those who travel and work inside it – as well as those whom the outreach of GUBotDev touches in the community.
Today, Erie and Gannon family joined us as the Lab was blessed by Bishop Persico, and introduced to the community by GUBotDev founder Mark Blair, chief operations officer Nick Devine, Gannon University President Dr. Keith Taylor, and dean of the College of Engineering and Business, Dr. Karinna Vernaza.
Huge thanks to our many sponsors! John M. Persinger Ridg-U-Rak, Keysight, American Hakko Products, WittFitt LLC, 80/20 Inc., Industrial Sales & Manufacturing Inc., Modern Industries, Inc., CHANNELLOCK®, TEKTON, The Vertical Flight Society, Lippert Components, Ray Wakley’s Car Care & RV Center, Tractor Supply Co., Harrell Automotive Gannon University.
‘“The tiny movements kids make to stay balanced stimulates their brain and helps them focus” says Dr John Ratey, a professor at Harvard University. “Children with attention disorders have a sleepy cortex and exercise combats that mental disengagement. By using their core muscles, they’re flipping their cortex on and increasing their mental activity. The cerebellum part of their brain is really working to adjust, every millisecond”. Further evidence from WittFitt involving a research group of college students confirmed that they too felt more focused and actually preferred using the ball chairs to regular chairs.’
Lisa Witt, President & Founder of WittFitt presented LEARNING IN MOTION
to administrative leaders at the RTM School Planning & Facilities Congress in Austin, TX April 28-30th, 2019.
We know bodies are meant to move, but how do we create this environment? Innovative school leaders and educators have been integrating movement into the classroom to enhance learning for students K-12. Join us in discussing the benefits, and listening to the philosophy around creating new spaces, or transforming existing areas, that encourage active sitting and dynamic standing. “The more closely we consider the elaborate interplay of brain and body, the more clearly one compelling theme emerges; movement is essential to learning…Movement integrates and anchors new information and experience into our neural networks [Hanaford].”
Attendees will learn about WittFitt’s consultative approach, the benefits of active spaces, and will get time to share their own stories.
THE BOSTON GLOBE, MARCH 20, 2017
WALTHAM — Teachers of another generation may have had little patience for fidgety students. Students were expected to sit with both feet on the floor and hands on top of their desks, while their backs rested often uncomfortably against the wooden backs of their chairs.
But don’t expect second-grade teacher Kelly Fitzpatrick to tell her Northeast Elementary School students to “sit still.” Instead, she is providing an outlet for their energy— replacing many classroom chairs with exercise balls, standing desks, yoga mats, and plastic stools that wobble in all directions.
To Fitzpatrick’s surprise, students seem more attentive in the new seating than in traditional desks and chairs.
Across Massachusetts, teachers are increasingly embracing a lesson learned from the dot-com world: different types of seating can make folks more comfortable, which in turn can boost productivity and creative thinking.
Balancing on an exercise ball or a “wobble” stool can also bring health benefits, from burning more calories to strengthening core muscles, which could yield some critical gains as schools do their part in combating childhood obesity.
Flexible seating is popping up in classrooms in many communities, including Boston, Braintree, Chelmsford, Malden, and Plymouth. The movement has been organic — teachers copying colleagues in their schools or picking up ideas on social media where teachers are chronicling their efforts.
The transition is not always easy, as Fitzpatrick can attest. The sight of her 7- and 8-year-old students bouncing up and down and wobbling around during the day’s lessons took some getting used to, she acknowledged.
“I’m a Type A personality,” she said. “I like rigid routines and I’m very organized.’’
But many teachers are so committed to the change that they are funding the transformations themselves, opening their wallets or crowdfunding. While an exercise ball can cost as little as $10, a wobble stool can go for $70 or more.
In many cases, the rooms are becoming the highlight of a student’s day.
At Nettle Middle School in Haverhill Friday morning, some seventh-graders rocked back and forth on wobble stools as they read a book in an English class. Others sat at traditional desks with attached chairs, but they bounced their feet on a bungee cord their teacher, Diane Gentile, had stretched across the width of the desk legs.
In the back of the room, a half-dozen students sank into disk-shaped cushion chairs, fixtures in many college dormitories, and kicked their feet up on ottomans as they read a book or wrote their part of a fictional story they were circulating.
“We are more chill than being at our desks,” said Maya Lancey, nestled into a disk chair and using a clipboard to write on. “If you are more comfortable, you won’t get up as much to walk around.”
Her classmate Troy Gagne, 12, likes the wobble stools and the bungee bands, saying, “It gives me something to do instead of tapping my feet on the ground and being a distraction to others.”
Gentile, who is in her first year of teaching, initially set up her desks in the fall in rigid rows, but she said, “It felt too much like a classroom my grandparents would have gone to.”
She drew inspiration from a colleague, Jennifer Donais, who has hauled in some unconventional choices into her classroom: a high-top patio set, a blow-up chair, and a futon.
The new wave of furniture is a far cry from the days when schools bolted their desks to the floor and insisted that students sit with both feet on the floor and hands clasped on top of their desks.
Fidgeting during those days was a behavior deemed in need of correcting.
Such rigid order is no longer as necessary in education, said Daniel Wilson, educational chair of Learning Environments for Tomorrow at Harvard University. He said schools have moved away from a model of “transmitting knowledge into the heads of students” to one where students are encouraged to work in groups to solve problems and do hands-on projects or other assignments that foster problem solving, critical thinking, and creativity.
But, he said, schools still need to be methodical about the furnishings they choose.
“Letting students sit on yoga balls might be more comfortable for them, but are they going to learn multiplication tables better or empathy?” he said. “Often decisions about furnishings and space design may feel good or look good, but that’s not enough. It needs to serve some educational purpose. It can’t just be flashy or comfy.”
Little research exists on whether flexible seating boosts student achievement or promotes better behavior. But anecdotal evidence from teachers, students and parents suggests there could be a connection.
Erin Nugent said she noticed a change in her son after his first-grade teacher, Jessica Sabino, adopted flexible seating in January at the Forest Avenue Elementary School in Hudson. He hardly complains anymore that school is too long and he argues less about sitting and doing his homework.
“Whether that’s a maturity thing or the seating I don’t know, but he does talk positively about the seating,” she said.
Teachers acknowledge that flexible seating could backfire if not implemented well.
In Waltham, Fitzpatrick had each of her second-graders sign a contract agreeing to use the seats for their intended purpose, a practice that many teachers have adopted. So, in other words, no kicking the exercise balls around or throwing them in the air.
She also reminds students each day to choose a seat that is best for them and not one that is simply next to their best friend.
Relinquishing control of her seating charts was a gamble, she said, noting that teachers cherish the power to separate chatty buddies and to foster relationships with other students.
“I have a really well-behaved class this year and I trust them,” she said, “but next year you never know what might be coming down the road.”
One of the favorite seating options among her students is a table lowered to 16 inches off the floor and surrounded by yoga mats, making students feel like they are working at a coffee table.
“I like sitting on the floor,” said Maria, 7. “I’m afraid of heights.”
“St. Gregory’s students in Jamie Casteel’s third grade bounce throughout the class as they sit on stability balls.
The stability balls replace normal chairs in Casteel’s classroom as part of a curriculum program and the students seem to enjoy the mobility.
She started utilizing the balls five years ago. She had read articles about their benefits and had students in her class she thought would benefit from the extra movement. She researched her options and presented it to Principal Susan Martin who was on board with the idea.
Casteel orders the balls from WittFitt.com, a company started by former teacher Lisa Witt who conducted research and data collection. The company offers a variety of alternative seating as well as specific lesson plans for teachers to incorporate.
Casteel begins introducing the balls to the classroom after Labor Day, giving her students time to adjust to being back in school. She teaches the lesson plans and goes over the rules for correct usage of the balls. Each student then takes a contract home that they and their parents sign stating they understand the rules. Students must sit with their feet on the floor, bottom on the seat, sit up straight and respect the ball.
The students begin sitting on the balls for 30 minutes at a time, working their way up to sitting on the balls all day long. The balls have four udders on the bottom to help keep them from rolling around on the students.
Each ball is customized to each student, allowing for just enough air to place the student in a perfect posture stance. Several times a year, Casteel will air up the balls completely and re-size them to each student to keep up with their bodies as they grow.
The stability balls improve student posture, help focus their attention, work their core muscles and improve their balance. The better posture allows for more oxygen to flow, helping with their breathing. The balls allow them to move into a more comfortable position and keep them from hunching over, resulting in better handwriting. As the students move using their gross motor skills, their fine motor skills improve.
“They are more comfortable on it; they don’t readjust all the time and shift around. It’s an avenue to get the energy out without negatively affecting their own or anyone else’s learning,” Casteel said.
The students had positive comments about the balls. Weston Tally said they help with posture while Brylee Acklin said she enjoyed them because it is fun to bounce.”
THE NEWS-MESSENGER, MARCH 7, 2017
CLYDE – The pupils in kindergarten teacher Aubrey Baur’s class usually have a ball — actually, they sit on ball chairs.
It is no surprise that the students bounce on the balls, but that does not stop them from working on their assignments and staying on their seats.
Baur, a third-year teacher at Clyde Elementary School, said she has had her own learning experience incorporating the ball seats into her classroom.
“I had tested one out with last year’s students,” she said. Then, for the 2016-17 school year, Baur’s parents donated 24 colorful, inflatable chairs for her class at a cost of about $25 per chair.
“They allow the students to still sit at their seats but allow movement,” the teacher said.
Baur said that studies show the work expected of kindergarten students is becoming harder and harder. “The kids can’t sit still that long,” she said. In kindergarten, children are expected to count to 100 and be able to read, the teacher pointed out.
Looking for options, Baur brought in ball chairs, which are inflatable.
“They allow the students to still sit at their seats but still allow movement,” she said.
During class, tots bounce on their seats, roll back and forth, and still keep working on their assignments. “I found that some of the kids who had a harder time keeping up on their work, those kids are doing much better.”
Baur’s class is not alone at Clyde Elementary when it comes to unique seating. Principal Jackie Davis said she has two third-grade teachers who also have unconventional classroom seating.
Teacher Kristie Badik approached Davis last spring about offering alternative seating to her students, and added a couch, standing desk, old-fashioned desk, rocking chair and a bench with table to her traditional student desks.
Tiffany Hall’s third-grade room also has similar items.
“I believe it gives students choice and adds to the classroom climate of being comfortable, and therefore it would indirectly have an academic impact,” Davis said. “If they have flexibility, it gives the feeling of self-control — and they do better.”
Davis said her initial concerns that the alternative seating could disrupt the learning process proved unfounded.
“That has not been the case whatever,” she said. “Every time I have been in any of those classrooms, they have been time on task.”
“The kids love it,” the principal said. “As kindergartners, it probably needs to be more phased in. In third grade, they can start off better.”
Baur’s students are big fans of the ball seats.
“It feels good,” 6-year-old Nathan Scruggs said while sitting on his green ball chair. “I like bouncing on it.”
In preschool, Nathan used a regular student chair, he said. “I like the ball chair better. Everybody knows that.”
Six-year-old Alivia Aldrich said the ball chairs are “good” and that she likes them because “you can bounce.”
Baur and her students did have a learning curve when the ball chairs, which have feet, were incorporated into class at the start of the year.
The teacher learned quickly that kindergartners had to be taught that the balls were not toys — and that her young students needed to learn to stay seated in a standard chair before being given a ball chair.
“First of all, I realized that coming into kindergarten everyone starts at different places,” she said. So the ball chairs became a reward for those who wanted a chair. The students had to earn a ball chair by earning stickers daily for being a good student.
“They essentially need to be good for a month,” Baur said.
In her class, 90 percent of the students earned the right to qualify for a ball chair — but no student was forced to use it.
“There are some rules with them,” she added.
While students may bounce on the chair, they also must stay on their chair. Also, students must not have sharp objects around the rubber chairs. Baur said he had only one pop so far this year, and she had an extra one on hand.
She found that with normal student chairs, children were regularly finding reasons to leave their seats as sitting still was a strain for little children. Students now tend to stay “seated” on the balls — rocking, bouncing, rolling and even sliding a bit — but the motion does not upset their teacher.
Baur plans to use ball chairs again next school year, and they should last a few years. She added, though, that her 2017-18 students will start the year with standard student chairs and again have to earn their right to bounce.