DANVILLE – At first glance, the bright yellow balls in Julie Turner’s split first- and second-grade class at Meade Park Elementary School look like toys the children would enjoy bouncing on.
In reality, they are Sit ‘n’ Gym stability balls that have replaced the children’s chairs in the classroom. A few weeks into the new school year, the two-dozen children have taken to the new seating and call the balls “fun” to sit on.
Turner said she made a lifestyle change to become healthier about a year ago and wondered if there was anything she could do differently in her classroom to benefit her students.
“About a year ago, I took up road cycling,” Turner said. “My husband and I do that now, and I’ve lost 30 pounds.
“I was looking online for something that would help my students when I found stability balls,” she said.
Sitting on the stability balls helps build core muscles and improves handwriting and focus, Turner said.
“I’ve noticed on mine you have to keep your muscles focused at first, but after a while you don’t really notice it,” she said.
While searching on the Web, Turner found other teachers were using the stability balls in their classrooms.
A grant from the Danville Public School Foundation in the spring allowed Turner to purchase 30 child-size stability balls and an adult-size one for herself to be used in the classroom.
“I’m very grateful to the foundation for the opportunity to purchase these,” she said.
The children’s first inclination was to bounce while sitting on the balls, but that didn’t last for long.
“It’s enough to expend their energy,” she said. “And we’ve yet to have anyone fall off.”
A few chairs still can be found in the classroom ... just in case.
“If a child requests a chair, I have one. It’s not mandatory they sit on a ball,” Turner said. “If I have a bouncer that won’t stop bouncing, then they’ll have to sit in a chair.”
That didn’t seem to be an issue that morning in Turner’s classroom, as the children quietly sat on their stability balls and read books or practiced their handwriting.
Second-grader Xavier Wendell had no trouble reciting the benefits of the stability ball he was sitting on.
“It builds your muscles. It’s fun,” he said. “It’s the best seat you can sit on.
“It’s like sitting on a basketball,” the youngster explained. “It’s bouncy.”
First-grader Alexxis Motten observed, “It does help you write better. It helps you get stronger. It helps you pay attention sometimes.”
She explained, “You can fall off really easily. That’s why Mrs. Turner says to keep our feet on the ground.”