Right away, teacher Kirsten Morgan noticed a change in her students’ behavior when their standard desk chairs were swapped with exercise ball chairs and balance boards.

Instead of chatting or becoming distracted, the 25 seventh-graders bounced, balanced and rocked while calmly doing their work. In three weeks with the new equipment, her English class hasn’t had one behavior problem, Morgan said.

“That was kind of an eye-opener for me,” said Morgan, who teaches at St. Michael Catholic School in Prior Lake. “I think it’s that excess energy that they have to get out.”

After seeing a video online of kids using treadmills and elliptical machines during classes, she learned that research shows students who use their muscles while learning have better outcomes, she said.

A grant from the Laker Educational Foundation allowed Morgan to buy a variety of new furniture and equipment, including stools, BOSU trainers, ball chairs, balance disks and balance boards. Now, when kids show up to class, they scurry in to pick which “learning tool” they’ll use.

Morgan is surveying her students to see how well the tools work, she said, and responses are positive. Next, she wants to look at test scores to see if they’ve gotten a boost, she said.

She believes what her class is doing will catch on more.

“I’ve been in education for 20 years and things ebb and flow,” she said. “I do think this is the next big thing.”

Erin Adler


St. Paul charters hold school-choice fair

Twenty-five years after the passage of state legislation making their creation possible, St. Paul’s charter schools are teaming on Saturday to host their first school-choice fair.

Gathering schools under one roof is not new. But St. Paul’s charter schools had to decide whether to create their own event after the St. Paul School District said it would no longer host a large, one-stop fair that made room for the city’s charter schools, too.

Instead, the district opted to limit its outreach to families sifting through its preschool and kindergarten options, and to go in-house by holding the event Jan. 9 at Washington Technology Magnet School. Before, the fair was held at the spacious RiverCentre downtown.

The St. Paul Charter School Fair will run from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at St. Paul College, 235 Marshall Av., and will include representatives from at least 35 schools. For more about the fair, go to stpaulcharterschoolfair.org.

Anthony Lonetree


AchieveMpls chief to retire this summer

Pam Costain is retiring this summer as chief executive and president of AchieveMpls, the nonprofit partner of Minneapolis Public Schools that she has led for six years.

“Preparing to leave AchieveMpls is bittersweet,” Costain said in a news release. “I’m proud of Achieve’s mission, staff, programs, partners, and broad community of support. It’s a tremendous privilege to work with such an outstanding staff and board to help our next generation find a path to success. It’s also time for new leadership and new ideas. I look forward to pursuing my passion for social justice in new ways.”

The organization had a $6 million income in 2014, and spends its resources on internship programs and college and career training for Minneapolis students.

Alejandra Matos