Classroom uses exercise balls to aid learning

By Audrey Wise

December 11, 2013 Updated Dec 11, 2013 at 7:49 PM CDT

DUNLAP, Ill -- Teaching a room of second graders has it's challenges, but one teacher is using different techniques to help her students.

Dunlap Principal Mandy Ellis nominated 2nd grade teacher Kelsie Zarko for the HOI 19 and CEFCU $1,000 One Class at a Time grant after hearing about her research and passion to help her students learn.

"She came to me this summer and had all these great ideas to improve her classroom and to make it a 21st century environment for her students and I simply didn't have the budget to allocate towards that," said Ellis.

Zarko said, "We typically put kids in desk and we put them in rows or even in groups, but kids are really meant to sit all day and sit still. Research shows that sitting on the exercise balls or doing exercise really helps neurologically and helps them focus."

Kinesthetic learning means you need to move around and touch things to learn most effectively.

"There's lots of things to look at when you're 7," explains Zarko.

Zarko already has several of the exercise balls. She is seeing so much benefit, she would like one for every student.

"I think a lot of the behavior issues leave because their getting the sensory input by sitting on the balls," she added.

She would also like to use some of the grant money for another idea she has researched.

Zarko said, "I read about a district who used exercise bikes while kids were reading and there was a lot of achievement growth through that, so I would like to explore that too."

Zarko said this grant will give her students lots of options, while learning in a motivational and fun environment.

"I think it's also important to learn to sit on a chair because in a real life you need to sit on a chair sometimes," she said.