By Christina Gagliano, co-president, MVMMS PTO
Note: This article appeared in the Melrose Weekly News on November 27, 2015.
Sitting on the stability ball has definitely decreased my daydreaming.”
— MVMMS student Audrey Methot
Sixth grade students in Amy Dylengoski’s Social Studies and Beth Colgan’s English classes at Melrose Veterans Memorial Middle School (MVMMS) are having a ball with their newest classroom furniture. As participants in an active seating pilot funded through the MVMMS PTO and the Melrose Education Foundation, students have the option of sitting on stability balls instead of the usual classroom chairs. And, since being introduced at the beginning of this school year to approximately 240 students, stability balls have been the clear winners.
“Everyone—well, except one kid—loves the stability balls because they are fun to bounce around on and they also help you concentrate better on your work,” says active seating pilot participant Jack Durant.
Helping students focus on their work by providing a non-distracting outlet for excess physical energy is one of several proven benefits of using stability balls, according to wittfitt.com, one of several sources of information that teachers Dylengoski and Colgan and Melrose Public Schools’ Grade 6-12 Social Studies Director Bryan Corrigan used when investigating outcomes after seeing active seating in action in the Andover Public Schools. Other documented benefits include enhanced posture, balance, and core strength; better retention; and improved blood flow throughout the body, especially to the brain.
“Sitting on the stability ball has definitely decreased my daydreaming,” says student Audrey Methot. “It also helps my posture because, if I slouch, I’ll fall off the ball.”
Falling off of these high-quality plastic, burst-resistant, and latex-free stability balls is an infrequent occurrence, as they have feet to keep them from rolling around and rules that govern their usage.
“Teachers remind us of the rules every time we use them,” says Ruby Robicheau. “’Tush on the target,’ ‘feet on the floor,’—
“—‘and if you break the rules, you lose the ball!’” chimes in Morgan Kirby with enthusiasm. “Nobody wants to lose the ball, so we really behave.”
Social studies teacher Dylengoski agrees with her student’s assessment of classroom behavior. “We hold the kids accountable, and they are responding exceptionally well,” she says. “We also are measuring the success of this pilot using several sets of data points gathered after one month of the pilot and at the end of the year.” These success measures include: tracking how often students leave class and comparing test scores when the students use the balls versus when they don’t. Due to their price tag of $25-30 each, the stability balls are shared, with Colgan’s 6B English class using them for seven days and Dylengoski’s 6A English class using them for the next seven.
“The MVMMS active seating pilot is a great example of how interdisciplinary and cross-team collaboration can benefit our students,” says Corrigan. “A couple of our educators saw something interesting happening in another district, wanted to bring it to Melrose, sought funding and support, and made it happen.”
“This is exactly the type of innovative project that we want to fund,” says Lisa Lewis, Melrose Education Foundation president. “Our Spring, 2015 cycle of mini grants only allowed us to pay for half of what was requested for the active seating pilot, so we reached out to the MVMMS PTO to find out if they were in a position and of a mind to pay for the other half. Once they learned about the potential benefits, they were on board.”
Students in the pilot classes are on board in such a big way that several of them are putting “yoga/stability balls” at the top of their holiday gift lists this year, although, as Ruby Robicheau says enthusiastically, “It’s like Christmas every time we walk into the classroom and it’s our turn to have the stability balls!”