BANGOR DAILY NEWS, ME.  JUNE 2013.

Students at the Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville participated in a pilot project that replaced classroom chairs with stability balls.  Posted June 03, 2013, at 3:23 p.m.

Public school students in Aroostook County who sat on stability balls instead of chairs experienced benefits including improved academic performance and better health, according to results from a recent formal study. The study, conducted during the second half of the 2011-2012 academic year, assessed each student’s “squirminess,” task level and posture before and after using a WittFitt stability ball over a four-month period.

It also assessed standardized test scores for each class, penmanship, observations from teachers and parents, and student opinions. The initiative replaced chairs with stability balls in 13 classrooms located throughout Aroostook County, after teachers completed training during the first half of the school year. Students spent part or all of each day sitting on the stability balls at their desks and in other parts of the room. The latex-free stability balls, which have legs on the bottom to keep them from rolling, are similar to the type used at the gym and in the home for stretching and strengthening exercises.

The study found that more than half of students were more able to sit still and stay on task, and showed improved posture after switching from a chair to a ball. Students also reported overall satisfaction with using the balls as chairs. “The benefits are greater than I had ever imagined,” said Robin Norsworthy, a fifth-grade teacher at Zippel Elementary School. “The kids are quieter when getting into groups and they move more quickly between tasks. They take great ownership of the stability balls, and they love using them.” The study also found that about 80 percent of students improved their standardized test scores over the course of the year. Teachers said that students’ academic performance remained the same or improved after using the stability balls in classrooms. The pilot project included students ranging in age from 6- to 18-years-old in seven school districts. Teachers assessed their students before and after implementing the stability balls. Each student also was measured for a custom-sizes ball. The project came about through a partnership among public health organizations and schools that kicked off in early 2012.

It was funded by The United Way of Aroostook, The Aroostook Medical Center and Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems. “When we began the project, we anticipated that the integration of stability balls would improve the classroom environment, allowing students to move throughout the day, therefore improving facets that would lead to improved academic performance,” said Martha Bell, community transformation coordinator for the Aroostook Public Health District. Replacing classroom chairs with stability balls helps students focus, study… http://bangordailynews.com/2013/06/03/health/replacing-classroom-chai… 1 of 2 6/4/2013 2:52 PM TAMC helped analyze data. “The analysis of the data is an important step in local efforts to curb youth obesity and improve the overall health of children and adolescents,” said Jorge Pineiro, a TAMC pediatrician.

Research conducted in other parts of the country suggests that stability balls can make a difference in the classroom. A 2011 University of Kentucky study demonstrated that teachers prefer having stability balls in the classroom and found evidence that using stability balls is effective for students who exhibit hyperactivity and problems paying attention. Other studies have expanded on these findings by showing the benefits of stability balls for a wide spectrum of students, from elementary school through college.

THE MERCURY, PA.  FEB. 2013

By Caroline Sweeney
casweeney@pottsmerc.com
Tuesday, February 26,2013

Yoga balls are used in Phoenixville Middle School’s sixth-grade writing class rather than chairs. (Photo by Kevin Hoffman/The Mercury) PHOENIXVILLE —

 

The big yellow spheres in Jim Duey’s sixth-grade writing classroom at Phoenixville Middle School can be seen before you enter the door. Some students sit with both feet on the ground, bouncing slightly, every so often. Others have both legs underneath them, perched on top of the sphere. But they are all working. Duey has been teaching for 25 years. Before he taught at the middle school, he taught in West Chester and in Rome, Italy. This is his third year teaching sixth grade. Three years ago, while Duey was teaching a “movement in teaching” class at St. Joseph’s University, a librarian at the Westtown-Thornbury Elementary School brought in a video of students in a classroom on exercise spheres.

 

After that class, Duey went to a Five Below discount store and purchased five spheres for his own classroom. “I thought, this has got to work and I noticed immediately that with a lot of kids it just helped settle them,” he said. “Kids don’t get up and use the washroom and they don’t get up for a drink of water a lot in here because they don’t need to clear their head.” Phoenixville students get a bounce from ‘exercise spheres’ in classroom … http://www.pottsmerc.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20130226/NEWS… 1 of 3 2/26/2013 10:46 AM Students may not know exactly why they need to get up and move around but they can feel the difference when they study. “I like it because you move a lot and you can’t lay on the tables and fall asleep,” said Robbie, 12, a student in the class. Morgan, 11, and Declin, 12, both think the spheres are fun. All three said they focus better on their assignments compared to other classes. Duey originally earmarked the first five spheres for students he knew needed them but after the holidays that year, half of the class came to school with them.

 

Last year, Duey received a grant that enabled him to purchase more durable spheres from a company called WittFitt LLC for the entire class. The benefits to these spheres are their durability and the small feet attached to the bottom that prevent them from rolling all over the classroom. The spheres from WittFitt come in different sizes and colors that correspond with a student’s height. Preserving the spheres is a concern for Duey, so the spheres have requests from the students. “Like the sphere says, only bring non-pointy objects near me,” Duey said. The sphere isn’t a drum either. Duey said that students are not required to use the spheres and he hasn’t had any parents come to him with problems. In conjunction with the spheres, Duey incorporates other learning styles into his classroom. He will lead his class in “hookups” that engage the student’s right and left brain. They stand, cross one foot over the other, then cross their arms and link their hands. Duey leads the students in deep breathing exercises as well.

According to Eric Jensen, a brain researcher and former teacher, students in middle school and high school can only focus for 12 to 15 minutes. At least twice in a period, Duey has his students do something that isn’t learning. “It may seem like a waste of time in class, but what it does, is it enables them to have a moment of not learning which is as important as learning,” Duey said. He also said that the spheres have to fit into the teacher’s style of teaching or they won’t be beneficial. This seating arrangement will not be school-wide, said Sandra Claus, community relations coordinator for the Phoenixville Area School District, but some of the elementary school classrooms are using the spheres as well. “I’ve had a lot of kids tell me that they miss having them,” Duey said. Morgan, Declin and Robbie said they will miss the spheres next year, too.

CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL & CLINICS, MN.   DEC. 2012
Published on Friday, 14 December 2012 07:00
Written by Allison Balfanz

 Read article.

Our friends and families gave in ways big, small and surprising in 2012—from donating hundreds of hours, to hosting a birthday party in honor of Children’s, to buying a meaningful item from our Giving Store. When they gave to us, they gave to kids. Because here at Children’s, every cent is kid spent. During the next 12 days, we’ll show you how individuals, families and organizations gave to Children’s. We’ll post a new story each day here, on Facebook and on Pinterest. We hope these amazing stories will touch your heart as much as they have ours.

Dec. 22:

This past August, Lisa Witt was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was the kind of moment when “you realize you are not invincible,” she says. During a run one morning, she decided it was time to “pull it together.” She decided to run a half-marathon before her surgery to raise money. Though she was battling cancer, she thought about how heartbreaking it would be to have a child going through it. “Having two children of my own, I could relate to this fear. Our son Ian, now 6, was born with Down Syndrome and spent his first month at Children’s. That was scary enough,” she says. She raised $1,500, which was matched by her company WittFitt LLC, and donated it to Children’s. The money is being allocated to several programs including Art Out of the Box and The Cancer Kids Fund. “I wanted to have the money spent on making not only the kids’ lives better, but their parents’ lives easier as well,” she says. Dec. 23 We can’t do what we do without the help of some very special people.

So far in 2012, 1,699 volunteers have dedicated their time to Children’s. The dollar value of that time? More than $729,000! Those volunteers play video games with the patients, make arts and crafts in the Sibling Play Area, bring books to patient rooms, and offer storytelling time. Dec. 24 Fourth-graders from the International Spanish Language Academy in Minnetonka raised nearly $770 after opening Mercado Central, where they made and sold their own art work including jewelry, wood decoupage and drawings. Students also collected old books and had a smoothie stand for customers.

FIDDLEHEAD FOCUS, ME.  DEC. 2012
JENNA BEAULIEU
4 December 2012

FRENCHVILLE – Fourth graders at Dr. Levesque Elementary School were able to connect via video teleconferencing to a class at Zippel Elementary School in Presque Isle and participate in a press conference regarding extra funding to analyze survey results and data in connection with a WittFitt pilot project started earlier in 2012 that introduced stability balls into their classroom.

According to a press release, the WittFitt project is a unique partnership between public health organizations and schools that kicked off in early 2012. The project replaced chairs with stability balls in 13 classrooms located throughout Aroostook County for the second half of the school year. Students in the classrooms spent part or all of each day sitting on the stability balls at their desks and in other parts of the room.

A class from St. Francis Elementary School also participated in the WittFitt project. Pilot program collaborators introduced the stability balls, which are exercise balls with knobs on the bottom to keep them from rolling, in an effort to increase balance, posture, handwriting skills, attitude and focus in students, according to Reegan Brown, WittFitt project coordinator and community education specialist for Healthy Aroostook. Martha Bell of Healthy Aroostook/ACAP said, “The intent of the original pilot was to analyze the effects that the physical activity during the school day has on academic performance, thus validating the need to integrate the two together.” Bell continued, “Participating teachers in the pilot became certified on how to instruct proper use of the balls in the classroom, measured each student for proper ball size, eased the balls into the classroom in segments, and assigned pre-, interim, and post-survey data with the students, parents, as well as themselves. Collection of the data wrapped up in June 2012 and is in the process of being interpreted by Hart Consulting, Inc.” Though the pilot program is no longer active and teachers are simply holding onto the balls they received as part of the program, the data remains to be analyzed. Stevens said, “Now that we have all the data, it’s very important that we analyze it so it can tell us how effective these balls really were, because if it does what we think that it will do, I think that it will be very easy to raise funds around that, because everyone wants to see every child do well.” Raising funds could provide stability balls to more students in the area. According to students in Ms. Castonguay’s fourth grade class at Dr. Levesque Elementary, they want to take the balls with them when they move on to the fifth grade. An increase in funding for stability balls could allow access to a wider range of students, according to Stevens. Dr. Levesque instructor Meranda Castonguay said, “More children can benefit from this than the pilot students.” Additional data analysis will proceed due to a collaborative donation.

Our hope is that the results will encourage schools to integrate more physical activity into the curriculum.” Bell continued, “We think that doing so may have a positive impact on not only their academic performance, but also their health and well being. Progress will only be possible if efforts are supported by a wide range of collaborators, including schools, public health officials, hospitals, as well as other collaborators in the community. We look forward to working with all of these partners to discuss the final results.” At a press conference on Wednesday, Nov. 28, Ms. Castonguay’s class and another WittFitt project class from Zippel Elementary School connected via video teleconference to participate in the announcement of funding. Castonguay said, “I’ve been thrilled to be a part of this.” Brown said, “We were very happy to have this class involved in the press conference. They were pretty much our poster classroom for the project.”

Somerset Elementary Class Is On The Ball

A third grade class at Somerset Elementary School has ditched the chairs to sit on stability balls.

By John Molene, Patch Poster  | Updated 

Chairs are out at Krista Seipel’s third-grade class at Somerset Elementary School.

Stability balls are in.

The balls, officially known as WittFitt Stability Balls, are used instead of chairs by the 25 third graders in Seipel’s class.

The bright blue stability balls are designed for classroom use and made of latex-free resin materials. The balls are durable and firm and have “feet” to keep them in place when not in use.

“I really like them,” said third-grader Avery Vogen. “And they’re really comfy to sit on.”

Read full article!

LA CROSSE TRIBUNE, WI.  OCT. 2011

WittFitt exhibits tools for movement in the classroom for principals to try out.LaCrosse Tribune, WI

Lisa Witt, the owner of Witt Fitt, shows Arrowhead High School principal Gregg Wieczorek how stability balls can be used for seating in classrooms at the Association of Wisconsin School Administrators annual conference in the La Crosse Center. The balls can also used to help with the students fitness. Erik Daily Principals’ offices across the state are empty this week. Their regular occupants are in La Crosse for the annual Association of Wisconsin School Administrators convention. “It’s nice for principals in our area, because it’s right here this year,” said Mark White, a principal at Hintgen Elementary School. Booths and workshops filled the La Crosse Center on Thursday as experts presented ideas and learning tools for curious administrators, from online classes custom made for individual students to big rubber balls designed to replace the classroom chair. “Part of it is to bring people together to talk about current events,” association Director Jim Lynch said. Technology is a common theme, especially as schools adapt to students raised in the digital age, Lynch said. Virtual classrooms are one such tool, tunable to the specific needs of each student, said Greg Bishop, a former high school principal from Warren, Mich., who also works for an Internet learning company. Tucked away in a far corner of the convention center, a long line of elementary school principals sat knee-to-knee, comparing notes. White, Hintgen’s principal, facilitated the networking session. “It’s always good to learn from each other,” White said. “Everybody’s got different things that are important to them.” The convention ends today.

Quad-City Times, February 21, 2011
Steve Martens

Bettendorf Mark Twain Elementary third-grader Nicole DeBruyn reads while sitting on a WiffFitt ball on Friday, February 18th 2011. (Larry Fisher/QUAD-CITY TIMES)

In most ways, the students in Diane Bodnar’s third-grade class at Mark Twain Elementary School in Bettendorf looked very much like any other third-grade class as they sat quietly and worked on their handwriting last week — with one glaring difference.

Rather than traditional plastic desk chairs, the students are sitting on blue exercise balls.

According to some studies and the manufacturer, WittFitt, the exercise balls help students have better posture, strengthen their core muscles and help them stay focused on their lessons.

Principal Caroline Olson and special education teacher Carrie Moberg sought and received a $1,750 grant from the Bettendorf Community Schools Foundation to fund the purchase of 52 WittFitt stability balls — 32 for use by Bodnar’s third-grade class and special education students at Mark Twain, plus four for each of the other five elementary schools in the district.

The Mark Twain PTA also contributed $200 toward the project.

The students spent some time

sitting on the balls for a few hours a day to get used to them, then started sitting on them full-time last week, Moberg said.

“The results have been great,” she said.

Mark Twain Elementary para-educator Paul Vermette sits on an adult-size WittFitt ball while helping third-grader Pete Sible with a reading assignment on Friday, February 18th, 2011. (Larry Fisher/QUAD CITY TIMES)

Bodnar said the balls are good for “active learning” students who have trouble focusing. While students sitting in a traditional chair can get uncomfortable and start to fidget and lose focus, sitting on the stability balls forces the students to sit up straight with their feet on the floor, she said. The act of balancing themselves on the ball requires them to focus.

“It gives them that chance for movement,” she said.

Every once in a while, you can hear the soft squeak of rubber against rubber.

The occasional squeaking is actually an indication that the students are sitting too close together and are moving around, Bodnar said. She said the students decided to rearrange their desks so they won’t be sitting right next to each other anymore.

“K” MAGAZINE [ENERGIZING CHILDREN’S MINISTRY], JULY/AUG., 2010

WittFitt stability balls are featured in the magazine.

Read article.

STUDIO CLASSROOM MAGAZINE, TAIWAN.   SEPT. 2009.

Former teacher Lisa Witt felt so strongly about the use of balls as chairs, she started WittFitt. This company encourages the use of the balls. In addition, the company educates not only teachers but also students on how to use them.

Sitting on a chair all day in school can make anyone want to move around. So, more and more teachers are letting students have a ball. By replacing chairs with exercise balls, teachers find students’ posture and attention improves. Dottie Pownall, a fifth grade teacher in West Virginia, has been using balls as chairs since December 2008. “The students love them,” she says. Pownall took a survey of her students. She found that 80 percent thought sitting on the balls helped them focus better. Former teacher Lisa Witt felt so strongly about the use of balls as chairs, she started WittFitt. This company encourages the use of the balls. In addition, the company educates not only teachers but also students on how to use them. “We have clients in 24 states, three provinces in Canada, Puerto Rico and Japan,” says Witt. “Research shows that sitting on the balls promotes sitting up straighter. You can slouch on a ball,” says Witt, “but it feels awful.” Because the students are moving, their blood flow increases. That carries more oxygen to the brain, so the kids have more energy and can focus longer. “Furthermore, they’re fun,” says Pownall.

WOMELSDORF – Some fourth-graders at Conrad Weiser West Elementary School love their new chairs – probably because they’re not really chairs at all.

Fourth-grade students complete schoolwork while sitting on stability balls in teacher Annette J. Wall’s classroom at Conrad Weiser West Elementary School in Womelsdorf. Proponents say that using stability balls in place of chairs can lead to improvements in posture, handwriting and classroom behavior for some students.

The kids are sitting on stability balls, the air-filled, resin balls often used for exercising. But unlike the exercise variety, these have small legs that keep them from rolling.

According to WittFitt, a Wisconsin-based company that has supplied stability balls to more than 200 schools, they can lead to improvements in posture, handwriting and classroom behavior for students with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“If somebody has proper posture, their blood flows better,” said Lisa N. Witt, a former teacher who runs WittFitt. “If more blood’s going to your brain, it takes more oxygen, which tends to make you more alert.”

Exercise-ball chairs are gaining popularity in classrooms, from preschool to college. Some adults even use them at work.

At the elementary school in Womelsdorf, about 10 miles east of Lebanon and 10 miles west of Reading, a total of 40 students in teacher Annette J. Wall’s class and a learning-support class have been using the stability balls for about two months.

Wall got the idea after seeing them featured on a television show.

“I said, kind of jokingly, ‘I should get those for my kids,'” she recalled.

Wall talked to school nurse Beverly Yoder, who helped the school obtain a $1,600 federal grant meant to encourage health and good nutrition for children.

The school used the money to buy the stability balls, which sell for $23 to $32, and learn how to use them.

Students are expected to follow seven rules, including keeping their feet on the floor and making sure the inflated devices are safe from sharp objects.

Between classroom activities, students keep their minds fresh by doing exercises such as bouncing on the balls or pretending to box.

If a child’s back gets tight, there are regular chairs in the room that students are free to use instead.

Stability balls are also called exercise balls, gym balls or Swiss balls. They were first used by Swiss therapists to improve balance in children with cerebral palsy. Now, they’re used for physical therapy, home workouts and in place of chairs. Fitness experts say using stability balls can strengthen the back and abdominal muscles.

In the classroom, Wall hasn’t seen grades or test scores skyrocket, but she has noticed some improvements among students. They sit up straight, she said, and it’s not often that she has to remind them to stay focused.

Fourth-grade students Austin Costenbader, left, Tyler Freeman, center, and Brent Thompson, right, solve math problems as they sit on stability balls in a classroom at Conrad Weiser West Elementary School.

Students extolled the virtues of the strange furniture.

“You get more oxygen to your brain, and it’s probably more fun than chairs,” said Olivia Longenecker, 10.

“I like them because they give you better handwriting,” said Brent Thompson, 10. “They also keep you more alert and give you better posture.”

The unusual seats don’t stop children from fidgeting, but they aren’t noisy like chairs can be.

“It’s OK to wiggle a little bit, and the ball allows them to do that without disturbing others,” Wall said.

Read the Full Article, HERE.