WHITESBORO — A classroom full of second-graders lying on the floor, rocking back and forth, spinning on stools and bouncing atop brightly-colored balls might sound like chaos, but it’s not for Hayes Primary School teacher Kenda Carey in Whitesboro.
Largely forgone the traditional, static school desk and chairs in favor of flexible, kid-friendly furniture, Carey’s young students are free to choose from a variety of seating options including exercise balls, cushions, stools and rocking chairs. They are also free to move about the classroom, sit or stand, and use mobile surfaces such as clipboards and lap desks.
Carey said young students, like her second-graders, are frequently in motion and that she changed her classroom furniture to give them that freedom.
“Today’s kids, they move and wiggle,” Carey said. “They aren’t ‘sit-at-your-desk’ students and we had to move and change with that.”
Second-grader Emma Parish said she enjoys the flexible furniture and that sitting on the exercise balls has been particularly helpful for her writing skills.
“I really like them because it allows me to do my best handwriting,” Parish said.
As a first-year teacher, Carey said she was in a unique position to propose the furniture swap to Hayes Principal Patti Achimon, and even if her request was deemed too ambitious and she got turned down, it was worth a shot.
“I just had to be brave enough to ask to do it,” Carey said with a laugh. “I thought this was a great opportunity for me to do it and I’m a first-year teacher so all I had to do was say that and that I didn’t know any better.”
But she wasn’t turned down. After hearing the request, Achimon did her diligence and gave the second-grade teacher the go ahead. Achimon said that her research into the benefits, coupled with her confidence in Carey as an instructor, was all the reason she needed to green light the project.
“There’s a lot of research showing that letting kids move helps to keep them focused,” Achimon said. “And she’s a natural educator, so I trusted her and read up on the research and we went for it.”
Carey acknowledged that her plan was “out-of-the box” and said she wasn’t sure how it might go over with parents in a smaller town like Whitesboro. But after sharing her plan and the research with parents, she has received lots of support and positive feedback.
Achimon said the parent of one student in Carey’s class has even seen a total turn-around in her child’s participation and performance.
“For one parent that talked to me about it, it has made a complete difference in her child this year,” Achimon said. “Behavior has been greatly improved. His focus, his wanting to be at school, his wanting to learn has greatly increased.”
Carey said the project has required some ingenuity and a little of of her own money, but the benefits well outweigh the costs.
“It’s definitely worth it,” Carey said.