St. Paul Academy and Summit School have a way with things that are round. Last year KARE 11 reported on the use of round tables to maximize learning and this year the school officials have given the ok for balls.
Yes, balls. Large orange, green and red balls that are so big you could use them to sit on, and that's exactly what Jenny Merrick's math students are doing.
On the first day of school Merrick said the students "walked in and said is this math class? Because they thought it was their health and wellness class."
Turns out, the balls do have a wellness significance. A Mayo Clinic study found that the balls can be used to burn calories, in effect attacking the growing problem of childhood obesity.
Merrick's students can be seen bouncing in class while she's instructing students.
But with the new balls are new rules. On the first day of school, students agreed to set three guidelines for sitting on balls. First, the students agreed that any student who bounced while sitting on a ball, must keep their feet on the ground. Secondly, students said it's ok to roll around on the ball, but one ball can not bump into another. And finally, the students said, even though you can lean back on the ball, students must keep their head above the table at all times.
"You kind of have to lean forward to do your work but you don't have to hold on. You won't roll away, you won't roll away!", said Amanda Hotvedt, a sixth grade student.
"It makes you sit straighter, which is nice, so you can pay more attention. You don't need a break in the middle of class, so you're learning more," added Nathalie Manker, another of Merrick's students.
Students still have the option of sitting in the traditional school chair, but so far every student in Merrick's class, has decided to sit on a ball.
The cost of the program is $20 per chair. S.P.A. purchased 60 chairs, for a total of $1,200, as part of the pilot program. Only three classrooms use the balls this year.
As for Ms. Merrick, she said "I'm not the coolest teacher in the school, but I rank right up there."
By Rondah Kinchlow, KARE 11 News
(Copyright 2006 by KARE. All Rights Reserved.)