For years, students were told to “sit still and stop fidgeting,” but that has changed with the addition of elliptical machines to classrooms at an elementary school.
On a recent morning in Christina Philo’s fifth-grade classroom at Windsor Elementary School in Arlington Heights, Ill., Adam Boesen, 10, hopped aboard, not during his P.E. class, but while participating in silent reading time.
“It helps me concentrate,” said Adam, who kept up a brisk pace on the elliptical, while engrossed in a book.
“I got my homework done early the other day,” added classmate Joshua Grzesiak, 10, who said the array of so-called fit workstations also helps him to stay focused. “When I’m on the elliptical, I feel the opposite of distracted. I’m more connected with what I’m learning than when I’m just sitting.”
Welcome to Windsor’s new fit classrooms, where after researching various educational methods intended to engage students in active learning, Principal Shelley Fabrizio has encouraged her staff of kindergarten through fifth-grade teachers to allow students to bike, bounce and even pedal while learning.
“We all know that kids love to move, so we didn’t want to have our students sitting all day long,” said Fabrizio, who partnered with Assistant Principal Virginia Hiltz to create a program with standing desks, stationary bike and elliptical desks and a rainbow-hued stool called an Ergo chair.
Hiltz said the collection of roughly $3,635 fit workstations were rotated throughout the school’s classrooms last spring to allow every student the opportunity to experiment with at least one piece of equipment. Students were then surveyed so teachers could learn which particular workstations were most popular.
“Some of the pieces were a huge hit, and others weren’t as popular,” Hiltz said. “But the bottom line is that students loved the chance to test them out. Many even said they were able to concentrate and focus more on academics while using the equipment, and that’s what we were after.”
With the survey results showing that the Ergo chairs were a favorite, officials used funding from the school’s PTA to purchase six additional chairs.
“So many kids have attention needs, and they all have different approaches to learning,” Hiltz said, adding that students can choose whether to use a fit workstation or stay seated at a traditional table or desk.
“I started out with standing desks, one per classroom,” Hiltz said, “and the kids and teachers just loved them. The teachers wanted some for themselves. And the program just morphed from there.”