JENNIFER HACK/The Kansas City Star

Kyle Whalley uses an exercise ball to teach music at Liberty Middle School.


The Kansas City Star As an orchestra teacher at Liberty Middle School, Kyle Whalley, 25, thinks beyond teaching music to training musicians. That’s why many of his 140 sixth- and seventh-grade students, if all goes well, will be practicing the violin, viola, cello and bass while sitting on exercise balls in class. Q. You mean like those giant balls people use for sit-ups at the gym? A. That’s right. I know it’s weird, but these balls we’ll be using are designed to create good posture. It aligns the spine, makes you an “active sitter.” So what’s the nexus between playing musical instruments and active sitting? We spend hours on the topic of good posture, sitting with your back straight, feet flat They have to train their abdomen, the core muscles. The students have to be a tripod. You create a trip with your feet and the chair. While the chair has four legs, the ball acts as just one leg. If the student’s feet are too close together, they lose their balance.

Why is posture so important? A lot of benefits: Better blood flow, for one. And it helps kids keep their attention, to stay focused. The ball doesn’t allow you to sit poorly because if you do, you’ll obviously end up on the floor. Anybody take a spill yet No, we’re still on chairs, going through a curriculum about the ball, the history of it and how it works. That will take three or four weeks, and then they will have to take an exam. The students will have to get parent permission slips before we start using the balls.Then we’ll do lots of practice, minus the instruments. Eventually, if the funds come through, ideally the kids will be on the balls every day. Have you tried this yourself? I did try it. It’s interesting how much I can feel it in my stomach. You’re just so much more aware of sitting upright. I would go one way or the other if my legs weren’t in the right spot Is anyone else using exercise balls in this way? I talked to the people who have developed this program for schools.

The balls are being used in typical classroom situations, but they said I’m the first to use it in a music classroom. And the students’ reaction to this idea? It’s funny because I had a ball sent to my room and they thought it was a toy to take outside. I didn’t tell them anything about it for a few days. When I told them that we were actually going to be sitting on them, their reaction was,”That’s crazy!”