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T.K. Stone class is on the ball

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Teacher removes desks to improve student focus, performance

By Anna Taylor

One teacher at T.K. Stone Middle School is taking a new approach to classroom furniture.

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Sixth- and seventh-grade reading and language arts teacher Kerrie Bal removed the traditional student desks from her classroom and replaced them with yoga balls at the beginning of the school year.

Bal thought of the idea over the summer when she was doing research. Not aiming to turn her classroom into a yoga studio, Bal said the balls have been proven to increase student concentration and performance.

“Changing up the classroom to not just normal desks and chairs really helps stimulate kids and helps keep them focused,” Bal said. “They can’t fall asleep sitting on the yoga balls.”

The balls were funded with help through an online fundraising tool, gofundme.com. Bal’s classroom is full of blue and red yoga balls of various sizes.

Bal said T.K. Stone principal Beth Mather thought the yoga balls were a great idea.

“I was really nervous to ask her at first because I thought she would look at me like I was crazy” Bal said. “But, as soon as I asked her she was totally on board. I mean from the get-go she was like, ‘What can I do to help?’”

Bal only has four rules or guidelines for students with the yoga balls: they must remain on the floor at all times, they are for sitting and not playing, they are a privilege and avoid poking the balls with sharp objects. Bal said she already has had to replace a ball that was popped and makes sure to keep them filled with air.

Several of Bal’s students were a little skeptical when they learned about the yoga balls.

“Whenever I walked into the classroom, I was like, ‘Where are all the desks? Why are there yoga balls?’” Natalie Schory said. “Then Mrs. Bal explained it to us and when I went home I was so excited, I said, ‘Mom, there are no desks in our classroom, there’s just these yoga balls’ and she said ‘what?’ because she had never heard about it.”

Bal said she had class in the library on the first day to set the ground rules for the balls. Since then, students have been using them every day.

Although the yoga balls are something new and exciting to students, there are a few challenges students face occasionally. For support, students use clipboards when they have assignments that require writing.

Payton Miller said one of her struggles with the yoga balls is maintaining her balance.

“Every time I sit on it and start writing, I fall forward,” she said.

The students place their books and other items next to them when they come into the room. They are allowed to move around on the balls if they need to, but Bal instructed them with a few different positions to sit on or around the balls. She said the students have to stay in their own bubble and not invade anyone else’s space.

For tests, Bal’s student will use tables. Her old desks were given to another classroom that didn’t have desks.

“When she first told us about yoga balls, I thought, ‘Oh she’s going to have the desks in the corners and this is just like a one-time thing,’” Caleb Adams said. “And then when I found out that it wasn’t, I went bragging to everyone at my baseball practice.”

Mike Owsley of Owsley Family Chiropractic supports Bal’s initiative with the yoga balls. Bal, who worked for Owsley when she was in high school, said he has been one of the biggest supporters of the initiative. He found out about the idea on Facebook after Bal posted the Go Fund Me link.

“I thought it was a great idea for proprioception and core strengthening,” Owsley said. “Anything you do to improve proprioception does a lot to (improve interaction and focus). I was excited to see it come along.”

Owsley said various companies and businesses around the country also are resorting to yoga balls in their workspaces to increase employee satisfaction.

Bal said the sixth graders, who are new to the school, are used to having recess. Because there is no designated recess time in middle school, this is an opportunity for them to let out a little bit of energy as well, she said.

“The kids like it,” Bal said. “It’s something different. It’s a break in the regular going to class, sitting in a desk and that’s that.”

Anna Taylor can be reached at 270-505-1747 or ataylor@thenewsenterprise.com.