GARDNERVILLE - Getting the proverbial wiggles out while sitting in the classroom has become a lot easier for some fifth-graders at Gardnerville Elementary School, all thanks to teacher Dana Rosingus.
Visitors to the classroom will find students sitting on a sea of large, bright-green bouncy balls, called stability balls. At any given moment, the sea of green is motionless, quiet, then comes the light bouncing of one or a few students working on assignments, or raising their hands to answer a question.
Rosingus, who's taught at the school for a decade, researched the alternative seats last year before purchasing 25 of them out of pocket. With some help from parents and other sources, the total cost came in at $500.
"I read articles, news reports, even things on YouTube," she said, "but it was a study from the Mayo Clinic that really impressed me."
The teacher's research led her to three conclusions: stability balls burn calories, strengthen the body's core and posture, and enhance the mind's attentiveness.
Plus, she said, the balls complement the Promethean interactive whiteboard recently installed in her classroom.
"I've really been looking at how kids can be interactive in class," she said. "My goal, professionally, is to look at how they learn, and if the board and balls can improve learning."
Rosingus calls it "brain teaching," a kinesthetic strategy to convert students' natural energy into brain power.
In less complex terms, she said simply, "Kids need to get the wiggles out."
"I have seen a difference, and the reason why is the focus and excitement now in the class," she said.
Because students want to use them (traditional chairs are still optional), the balls have become a privilege, which can be taken away for misbehavior. In fact, students have to sign a contract with five rules: Keep your bottoms on the balls at all times; feet must remain on the floor; sit up straight; respect the ball chair as well as that of others; and check for sharp objects on yourself and the floor.
"They help us learn," said 11-year-old Judy Leon, "by concentrating and by doing small movements."
Classmate Tandon English, 10, said the constant, if subtle, movement helps ease any boredom.
"The movement gives a little more oxygen to the brain, and that helps you focus on your work," he explained. "You won't be slouched over either. It's better for your posture. It's helped me with my handwriting."
Students aren't the only ones excited about the stability balls.
"A lot of teachers have come by, looked in and asked questions," Rosingus said. "They're just curious, and I have a lot of research articles to give out."
She said the school held a staff meeting in her classroom using the balls instead of chairs. Feedback was positive, she said, and interest has spread to the school's front office, where secretaries are considering using the balls, and to the counselors' office as well.
"I want it to be fun and exciting," Rosingus said, "but tracking the success and impact the balls have will now be my goal."