O'Fallon Progress

Wobbling seating, could it be the next wonder in education?

Wobbling seating, could it be the next wonder in education?

Shiloh Elementary third-grade teacher Sara Witte is thinking outside the box with her new classroom campaign to implement alternative seating for her students.
Up Next
Shiloh Elementary third-grade teacher Sara Witte is thinking outside the box with her new classroom campaign to implement alternative seating for her students.

Today, Miranda Schroeder, 8, is lounging in an upright bean bag chair in her third-grade classroom at Shiloh Elementary. She likes the seat, but it’s not her favorite. She usually prefers to use one the yoga balls while she takes in her lessons.

“Because we can bounce it and watch the board,” she said.

The 25-kid class, taught by Sara Witte, has traditional seating, but it is also equipped with three yoga balls, three round balance disks, one wobble chair/stool, three upright bean bag chairs, and three wobble, a.k.a., “sensory cushions.”

Witte, who has been an educator for seven years, said the idea behind the alternative seating is to make the environment more comfortable for the students.

“When the kids are given the choice to choose which seat they learn best in, it helps increase student engagement and focus,” Witte said.

The idea may seem cuter-intuitive to many, but Witte said children do not have be sitting at attention, eyes front, to absorb what you are telling them.

We have several students who have ADHD in our building who also have those wiggle seats, but really we haven’t used it classroom-wide or where everybody’s had access to it. And so it’s really neat cause all kids now have access to those sensory cushions, and the opportunity to move.

Lori Murphy, Shiloh Elementary principal

“Over the years, I’ve had my fair share of ‘wiggly’ kiddos. It’s amazing how a kiddo can be sitting on the floor spinning in a circle or standing at their desk spinning in circles, and you ask them a question and they have been listening to every word you said,” Witte said.

The new seats are actually an extension of Witte’s ongoing practice to give students freedom of movement and not be bound to a desk.

“I know I don’t like to sit still all day, and they have way more energy than I do, so I know they don’t either,” Witte said.

Shiloh Elementary Principal Lori Murphy said she’s witnessed first-hand the success that yoga balls and sensory cushions for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder students. However, Witte’s is the first regular classroom to employ alternative seating at Shiloh Elementary.

“We have several students who have ADHD in our building who also have those wiggle seats, but really we haven’t used it classroom-wide or where everybody’s had access to it. And so it’s really neat, because all kids now have access to those sensory cushions, and the opportunity to move,” Murphy said.

Witte started researching the idea last fall after a colleague from a different school shared how she had switched to alternative seating and loved it.

The idea behind this was to make the environment more comfortable for the students. When the kids are given the choice to choose which seat they learn best in — it helps increase student engagement and focus.

third grade teacher

“The benefits include improved behavior and participation, less restlessness, improved core strength and posture, better attention and focus, and better academic performance,” she said.

One day before making the transition, Witte gave a balance board to one of her students to see what would happen.

“It was amazing how it reduced his calling out through out they day,” Witte said.

The students are defiantly sold.

Lacee Hernandez, 9, said her favorite things are the round balance board and the yoga balls because “they’re comfy.”

Working on his core strength, Matthew Ecker, 9, said with a grin, that some days it’s harder than others to balance on his favorite accessory — simply fit board, which allows students to stand at his or her desk.

Over the years I’ve had my fair share of “wiggly” kiddos. It’s amazing how a kiddo can be sitting on the floor spinning in a circle or standing at their desk spinning in circles and you ask them a question and they have been listening to every word you said.

Sara Witte, Shiloh Elementary third grade teacher

“If you wear too big of a shoe, then you start to wobble,” he said.

Dale Sauer, Shiloh School District 85 superintendent, said Witte does a great job connecting with the kids at Shiloh Elementary.

“She’s very in touch with the students, and has high energy to keep up with them,” he said.

Sauer said he is on board with Witte’s initiative and drive to creating a comfortable environment where students are given more learning conducive options.

“Shiloh has the quality of teachers that are not afraid to take educational risks, if it has the potential to increase student achievement or development. I am very proud of our staff,” Sauer said.

Working on finding money

Witte has started a GoFundMe page at the advice of a parent after she paid out of her own pocket for the first phase of equipment.

“I’m hoping to surpass my GoFundMe goal for more to support the other half of my classroom, and get it down before the end of the year,” she said. “It was not cheap to buy the equipment that we have right now.”

I’m just all for looking for any way to help a kid reach their full potential. If their not focusing because they’re fidgeting, and there’s a way to harness that energy for the better than that’s just great I think.

Brenda Kern, village of Shiloh clerk

Her goal started at $1,000, but soon climbed to $1,800. She’s at $1,050 pledged so far with the help of parents, grandparents and community members, including Shiloh Mayor Jim Vernier and Village Clerk Brenda Kern.

“I’m just all for looking for any way to help a kid reach their full potential,” Kern said. “If their not focusing because they’re fidgeting, and there’s a way to harness that energy for the better than that’s just great I think.”

Vernier said he knows how hyper kids can be at that age and how crucial the classroom environment is to students.

Shiloh has the quality of teachers that are not afraid to take educational risks if it has the potential to increase student achievement or development. I am very proud of our staff.

Dale Sauer, Shiloh School District 85 superintendent

“I think it’s wonderful, and I wish more teachers would do things like that And if it makes the kids happy in class, then why not do it?” Vernier said.

Some of the items are “in the pricey range,” Witte said.

“So, depending on the amount I collect, I will buy accordingly. My goals is to have enough options that each student can walk into my class each day and chose the seat they learn best in,” she said.

Robyn L. Kirsch: 618-239-2690, @BND_RobynKirsch

Wish List Items

  Comments