Start of a movement


Students joggle about in Kirsten Morgan’s language arts class. They can sit while learning or spend stored energy by jouncing on jellyfish chairs, teetering on boards, flexing with bands and bouncing on yoga balls — whichever verb promotes quality work.

Movement is encouraged because last year, 46 percent of Morgan’s seventh-grade students at St. Michael Catholic School in Prior Lake were kinesthetic learners, meaning they learned best by moving. Usually, she’d offer these kids Silly Putty, but Morgan desired to do more because research showed students benefit from being active while learning.

She received a $1,500 grant from the Laker Educational Foundation to purchase equipment such as BOSU Trainers, balance boards and Bouncy Bands. Next, she landed a $10,507 Prior Lake-Savage Optimist Club grant for 25 standing desks with swinging footrests, 25 adjustable stools, a storage cubby and a teacher’s standing work station.

Seventy-one percent of Morgan’s students believed their focus improved with the learning tools. Those earning Cs and Ds brought up their assessment grades by 10.9 percent. If scores continue to rise, Morgan hopes to expand the program.

Student Jackson Stephany thinks Morgan transformed her classroom into an exciting area.

“Sometimes, boys don’t care for language arts as much as girls, or find it more challenging,” Morgan said. “However, when they’re excited about learning tools, it levels the playing field.”

Overall, males improved their assessment scores by 2.3 percent, two significantly — one by 19.9 percent and another by 26.3 percent.

Michael McEachran studied while rocking his leg on the footrest.

“I have way too much energy,” he said. “The swinging bar helps me concentrate.”

Kinesthetic learner Joseph Peterson tossed a Koosh Ball.

“I throw it around so my hands keep busy and I can stay on task.”

After 10 minutes of wiggling while working, it was time for the etymology quiz. Students reading “The Giver” while walking in the hallway returned to their desks. A hush settled, and everyone stayed focused.

“I’ve been in education 20 years, and things ebb and flow,” Morgan said. “Kinesthetic tools are the next big thing.”

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