PEI

How a P.E.I. school is keeping kids focused — by not sitting still

Anyone who remembers elementary school may also remember how difficult it was to stay focused while sitting at a desk all day. A Charlottetown school is finding creative ways to make that easier and help students pay attention in class.

École François-Buote using bikes, wiggle stools, fidget tools to help students pay attention

Several classrooms at the elementary school are replacing standard desk chairs with wiggle stools. The stools have a rounded bottom that allow students to move around in their seat and try to balance. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Anyone who remembers elementary school may also remember how difficult it was to stay focused while sitting at a desk all day. A Charlottetown school is finding creative ways to make that easier and help students pay attention in class.

Several classrooms at École François-Buote are replacing standard desk chairs with wiggle stools. The stools have a rounded bottom that allow students to move around in their seat and try to balance. 

Principal Elizabeth Blake said the stools are part of a broader plan to give students more tools to succeed by focusing on ways to adapt the classroom to the different ways children learn — rather than the other way around. 

École François-Buote principal Elizabeth Blake says teachers would rather students enjoy time in class and 'be able to move and use their energy in class, as well.' (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"If you have to worry about not moving around you're focusing on that and not what's going on in class," Blake said.

"Instead of always just focusing on sit down, sit down, sit down, we're refocusing and saying what can we do for these children."

Encouraging movement 

The school started using wiggle stools in classrooms three years ago and Blake said they've been popular with teachers, students and parents. Grade 4 student Harmony Needham said she started using a wiggle stool when it was brought into her classroom this year. 

Since introducing the stools into classrooms, Blake says it's changed teachers' approaches to working with children who like to move or need to move during lessons. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"I find, it helps because sometimes people have a lot of energy so you can just move around in your seat and it won't distract you," Needham said. 

Since introducing the stools into classrooms, Blake said it's changed teachers' approaches to working with children who like to move or need to move during lessons. 

Grade 4 student Harmony Needham says the wiggle stools help students who have a lot of energy. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

"Waiting for recess is a long time," Blake said. "We would rather they enjoy time in class and be able to move and use their energy in class, as well." 

Stools, bikes, fidget tools 

Several classrooms also provide kids with "tanglers' or fidgeting tools to play with during lessons. Blake said some teachers and school office staff also use them throughout the day and they are a good tool to keep students focused during class discussions or individual work. 

The school also has a number of stationary bikes, called "spark bikes," that students can use to take a break during class and burn off some energy.

Rowan Norring, a Grade 4 student, said he uses the spark bike for a few minutes every day.

"[It's] awesome, and really fun, because then you don't have to wait a whole hour before recess to go run outside and stuff," Norring said. 

Grade 4 student Rowan Norring says he uses the spark bike for a few minutes every day. (Brittany Spencer/CBC)

Blake said every student can benefit from tools like spark bikes or wiggle chairs at a given point in time. She added that the school wants to reduce stigma surrounding the use of classroom aids and encourage students to look for the tools they need to get the best classroom experience they can. 

"For them to go to a spark bike, for them to ask for the wiggle schools, to go into the class to get a tangler ... It's all about auto regulacent — trying to figure out what I need in order to learn best." 

Blake said the program has been a success so far and the school plans to add more to as many classrooms as they can. 

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