Nodaway News Leader

“St. Gregory’s students in Jamie Casteel’s third grade bounce throughout the class as they sit on stability balls.

St. Gregory’s third-grade students, Olivia Stanley, TJ Kain, Weston Tally, Julie Conn, Will Sheil, Brylee Acklin, AJ Dinsdale, Addison Newham, Ella Eckley and Jacy Snead, listen intently to their teacher for instruction.

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.

Brett Long, Evelyn Branner, Jayda Buck, Andrew Ferris, Olivia, and TJ wait for their turn to line up.

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.”