Last year, one of the hottest kid’s items around were “fidget spinners.” Practically overnight, a cottage industry was born! Fidget spinners consist of a ball-bearing in the center of a multi-lobed flat structure made from metal or plastic designed to spin along its axis with little effort. The toy was advertised as a helpful product for kids (and adults) who have a hard time focusing or fidgeting by relieving nervous energy or stress.
At Isaac Newton Christian Academy, just like other schools, children began bringing them to school and using them in class. Suddenly, walking into a classroom gave the sensation of being on a tilt-a-whirl as more and more kids decided they needed them to focus! Soon, the teachers decided to reduce their use in the classroom.
But fidget spinners have caused a lot of people in academia to think about items that truly can help children with ADHD, spectrum disorders, or for children that in general, have a lot of excess energy and need a physical outlet while doing their desk work.
“We noticed that fidget spinners became a real distraction in the classroom,” explained Mr. Dean Ridder, Isaac Newton’s Head of School. “On the other hand, we want to be open to ideas and items that will help the student focus without disrupting the rest of the class. It can be a real challenge.”
Desk Leg Bands
“Desk leg bands” are one such device that some teachers are experimenting with. A thick, rubber band is put around the two front legs of the desk, allowing fidgety students to push, pull, bounce or kick their feet on it. The desired outcome is that the student can release energy, while paying attention to the teacher, and because it is low to the ground, is less distracting for the class as they focus on the front of the classroom.
“I’m experimenting with this type of band,” said Karen Curry, an elementary grade teacher at the Academy. “If someone is using a desk band I don’t even notice, because the movement is happening below desk level and doesn’t involve the student’s hands. Right now we limit their use to those students with a documented plan for its therapeutic use”.
Standing vs. Sitting
Mrs. Curry has also allowed some students to stand beside their desk at certain times instead of always being seated. “This allows them to rock from foot to foot and work off excess energy. Some schools have some ‘standing desks’ available for students so that they can go back and forth on one foot, or rock from side to side,” said Mrs. Curry. Standing desks are used in the back of the classroom so that the view of the teacher and whiteboards isn’t obstructed. That also helps make them less of a distraction. We see standing desks being used more and more in the workplace, too, because it is tied to some health benefits, but so far, we aren’t using them at Isaac Newton.
The Benefits of Recess
At Isaac Newton, in addition to gym class, students have an outdoor lunch recess and from kindergarten through the sixth grade, they also have a short afternoon recess.
“When it is recess time, the students open the door and they are off and running!” observes Mr. Ridder. “Even 15-20 minutes of running in the field, swinging, and climbing on playground equipment yields a lot of benefits. Kids are more successful in the classroom when they have been given opportunities to get fresh air, run around a bit, and connect socially with their peers. We know that the Academy has a very challenging academic program, and we believe that recess is an important part of our success.”
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