By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
POTTSTOWN >> Students are riding bicycles, sitting on balance balls and using indoor rowing machines all while in the classroom — and it’s not even for recess.
Teachers in the Pottstown School District are incorporating action-based learning in their curriculum to keep children focused and motivated to learn. The learning style encourages students to move their bodies while they learn through various activities.
The district was recently awarded a $24,000 grant, half of which is was used to encourage children to be active. David Genova, the district’s wellness coordinator, said the Fuel Up to Play 60 grant was used to purchase kinesthetic desks which are desks that incorporate physical activity. Fuel up to Play 60 is an in-school nutrition and physical activity program through the National Dairy Council, USDA and the NFL.
Desks purchased through the grant have pedals where student can ride it like a bike and others resemble a strider exercise machine.
“It reminds me of the bike I have at home,” said Rupert Elementary student Ashley Gatheca, 8, in reference to the desk she uses in her classroom. She said she likes exercising while learning because it helps her to think more.
Rupert Elementary student Camron Dawson, 8, said it feels good when he’s able to move around at his desk.
“I’m working my brain while I’m energizing,” he said.
Nicole Leh, 4th grade teacher at Rupert Elementary, said students have less disciplinary problems when they use the kinesthetic desks and the exercise equipment in the classroom.
“They are more engaged in what they are learning because as they are actively working out their brains they are actively listening,” she said.
Rupert Elementary School Principal Matthew Moyer said the school has made a lot of steps in the past few years to incorporate exercise in the classroom and that the grant has allowed them to go to the next level.
“The equipment is not just something for a break or something to get our brains energized but it’s a part of how we’re teaching and learning,” he said.
Rupert Elementary emotional support teacher Christine Fiorillo said her students are excited to exercise in class while they learn.
“They want to come here. They want to learn. They want to be a part of the classroom,” she said.
Fiorillo divided her classroom into several work stations and students at each station learned through different physical activities. Students writing on the white board, stood on balance balls to work on their core. Students using iPads rode stationary bicycles while they read. Students sitting down reading still moved their legs through pedal devices.
“This is definitely a new way of teaching,” Fiorillo said.
Being an emotional support teacher, she also said the exercise equipment helps with students to behave better
“I feel like the equipment allows the students to deal with behavioral issues or problems in a more positive way. It gives them an outlet for releasing anger, frustration or aggression through the equipment,” she said.
The kinesthetic desks also have a positive effect in a special education classroom at the Pottstown High School.
“I know it helps the kids and you see a huge difference when they’re not on them,” said special education teacher Dot McCrone.
As a former physical education teacher, McCrone was excited to learn that her classroom would be receiving the desks. She said she doesn’t like to sit down in a faculty meeting for too long so she knows students have a hard time doing the same in a classroom. When her students aren’t on the kinesthetic desks, McCrone said they fall asleep, don’t pay attention and are not as involved in the lesson.
Lamont Wise, a 10th grader, said his mind is more clear and open when he’s using the kinesthetic desk. He said it also helps to keep him awake.
“I participate more. I have changed a lot since the bike equipment came,” he said.
Ah’niyah Rome, an 11th grader, said the desks are exercise for your body and keeps her motivated to learn.
“It helps me be focused because I’m doing something instead of just sitting there,” she said.
McCrone said any child or even adult would benefit from these type of desks and she’s excited to see how well the students in her special education class do on them.
“I like to see when the light bulb goes on and they have the Ah Ha moment and they’re like I get it,” she said.