If you pay Kate Steward's 4th grade class at Washington Elementary, you're likely to find her 25 students wiggling around on circular boards while doing mathematics drills. Or they could be balancing them on their heads. Either way, they're not just playing, they're enhancing their learning experience by stimulating different parts of their brain that may not be as active while sitting idle in a chair.
"Moving before and during the learning process promotes the growth of cells in the hippocampus part of the brain," said Steward. She cites studies that show that "moving while learning helps kids focus, have a higher level of skill retention, and helps with spacial memory and navigation." Her students report that it makes school seem easier.
The students in her class recently finished an opinion writing activity where they had to form an opinion and cite reasons around the questions "would you rather learn through video games or learn by moving around." They were provided with articles and videos to provide evidence to support their claims. In Steward's class the students "seemed to lean towards learning through movement."
She looked into balance boards on the internet, but they cost more than $35 each, too expensive for a limited classroom budget. So Steward sought a better solution. "I contacted Mitch Smith (CHS Construction Class) to see if his students could help us make balance boards. They jumped right on the project and I only had to pay for materials." The partnership with Smith's class brought the cost per board down to about $6.
The board aren't only put to use during math lessons. "They especially love practicing multiplication tables on the balance boards," Steward said. "But they have also asked to read and to do cooperative quiz games while balancing as well."