Cumberland Hill students bounce, wobble toward better learning

Cumberland Hill students bounce, wobble toward better learning

Rinnah HagupitBREEZE PHOTOs BY ASHLEY WOLF, one of Lauren Brochinsky’s kindergarten students, sits on a yoga ball. This is the only one with a back support. (Breeze photos by Ashley Wolf)

CUMBERLAND – When Cumberland Hill Elementary School kindergarten teacher Lauren Brochinsky writes up a paper or a report, she starts out sitting upright with her feet on the floor. But she eventually moves around to get more comfortable so she can stay focused and do better work.

Brochinsky realized her students may be the same way. School is not about getting students to sit upright in a chair with their feet on the ground, she said, it’s about helping them learn the alphabet and how to count in the best way possible. If that means that they need to bounce or wobble while they’re learning, so be it.

Brochinsky raised more than $1,000 for flexible seating through Donors Choose, a website helping teachers fund class projects through online donors. She submitted her first flexible seating project on the Donors Choose website Oct. 8. On the website, she said the money would go toward wobble chairs, bounce ball chairs and balance disks so that students could have additional seating options other than the typical blue chairs that are seen in most elementary school classrooms.

The project was funded five days later, on Oct. 14, and the students received the flexible seating products the next week.

Brochinsky submitted the flexible seating project a second time because the first project called for 12 flexible seats for 21 students. Now, each student will be able to choose a flexible seating option. Brochinsky submitted the second project Nov. 9 and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation found her project. The foundation pledged to match every donation she received. The project was fully funded on Nov. 13, and the classroom is now eagerly waiting for more seats.

“This project got funded so quickly,” Brochinsky said. “I posted my (first) project in the Cumberland Hill PTO Facebook page and it got funded within a week, which was incredible. The community really supported this which was awesome.”

Brochinsky introduced the flexible seating to the students during center time, when students rotate to different 10-minute stations throughout the classroom. She placed wobble chairs at one station, bounce ball chairs at another, and balance disk chairs at another so the students had the chance to each try out the different options, she said. At first, some of the students found the seating options more fun than useful and she had to help them see why that chair may not be the best for them academically.

“For example, one of my boys loves the yoga balls, but he’s a bouncy kid to begin with,” she said. “He has a lot of energy and so, putting him on the yoga ball was equivalent to putting him on the trampoline.”

She said she also saw an improvement with many of students who used different seating options. Brochinsky said that one of her students lacks energy and it seems like each assignment takes out what little energy he has left, but bouncing on the yoga ball helped him to focus better and become more energized in the classroom.

Brochinsky went around the room and asked each of the students how they felt about flexible seating, she said. Brochinsky’s teaching assistant, Kaela Mardo, said Brochinsky has done a great job of asking the students a lot of questions to get them thinking about how the chairs help them focus, whether or not they would want to use the chair again, and what their favorite chair is.

She printed out pictures of each type of seat and had the kids circle the ones they liked, cross out the ones they didn’t like, and color in their favorite, Mardo said.

“It’s nice to see the child’s perspective on ‘How did you feel when you were sitting on this?’ “ she said.

This is not the first classroom at Cumberland Hill to have flexible seating options. One 3rd-grade classroom and one 5th-grade classroom also use the alternative seating, Brochinsky said. She said she hopes flexible seating options become more popular locally.

Kindergarten student Charlie McCarthy sits on a wiggle cushion.
These are now the seating options in the classroom: a wobble chair, wobble cushion, a standard blue chair, and a balance ball.