Wiggles, giggles and learning

Blake Housley sits on a Hokki stool at his desk in Leslie Valsamakis’ second-grade class at West Amory Elementary School.

AMORY – Leslie Valsamakis teaches an active group of second-grade students at West Amory Elementary School.

“These students learn best when they are active and on the move,” Valsamakis said. “Our school believes that if our students cannot learn the way we teach, we will teach the way they learn.”

Last year, literacy coach Heather Gault collaborated with Valsamakis in writing a grant application with DonorsChoose.org that brought in $990.80 to fund the purchase of Hokki stools, wobble cushions and bouncy bands.

Flexible seats known as Hokki stools let students keep moving, while sitting still. They come in four sizes, for kids of all ages and teachers. The convex base allows for movement in all directions, which is critical to student development as physical movement both increases well-being and encourages the physical- and intellectual-maturing process

A wobble cushion is filled with air to provide a challenging surface on which to balance, per the manufacturer’s website. The main use for wobble cushions is to improve proprioception, which is the body’s ability to know where a joint is positioned without having to look at it.

Bouncy Bands for desks are made from heavy-duty rubber with loops molded on both ends to install to chair legs on the students’ desks. They especially benefit students with short legs who can rest their feet on the stretched band instead of having them dangle all day. In addition, students who feel anxious when working enjoy being able to stretch their legs to release their anxiety while they work.

“It helps me relax,” said Cooper Swan, a student in Valsamakis’ class.

After a year of use, the students have enjoyed the benefits of the devices.

“The stools, bands and discs all allow students to keep their bodies active while their brains are engaged in learning throughout the two-hour reading block. This amount of physical movement increases my students’ mental well-being while limiting behavioral issues. Therefore, we can increase our learning and time on task. I am excited about having a room full of happy and healthy second-graders,” Valsamakis said.

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