Thanks to the Christine Nicole Smith Memorial Grant and LISD Employee Giving, Melissa Cary’s third-grade students at Bridlewood Elementary enjoy a flexible learning environment in which their brains are more fully engaged in every task.
“Early in my career I worked with a teacher whose students didn’t sit in chairs,” Cary said. “They used yoga balls instead. I was fascinated, but didn’t really dig any deeper. As the look of schools started to change, though, I heard about another teacher trading chairs for yoga balls, and I got curious.”
Cary did some research and realized there was a lot of evidence to support the use of yoga balls, or stability balls, in learning spaces. Science shows the effort involved in balancing on the ball as a secondary activity generates activity in both sides of the brain and communication between the two sides. When that activity takes place in the brain, the brain is actually engaged in the primary activity – in this case the learning and teaching taking place in a third-grade classroom – at a much higher level. The higher-level brain engagement means students actually retain more and understand more than they would if identical lessons and activities were presented to the same students as they sat in chairs.
While schools in LISD are well-funded, a class set of yoga balls isn’t necessarily the most likely item to receive funding. Nor is it something Cary can toss in her cart as she shops at Target.
“As I tried to decide how to make this happen, someone suggested an LEF grant,” Cary said. “I had never written a grant before, and I had no idea what to expect. But, I gave it a shot and it was really user-friendly and didn’t take a lot of time.”
Cary and her principal, Robin Block, were thrilled when they learned the grant was funded. “I sincerely appreciate how this investment greatly improves our ability to differentiate teaching, and how LEF helps provide the funds to promote flexible learning spaces for our children,” Block said. “LEF funding has large school-wide impact and helps support our excellent teaching faculty.”
Students in Cary’s class agree with Block, and are excited about their classroom’s new design. “The balls are great because they help us with a lot of things,” third-grade student Jackson Warford said. “They help me focus in class, and they also help with my posture and flexibility, which helps me outside the classroom as well.”
Fellow class member Allison Gesino agrees “Thank you, LEF, for funding this exciting new experience.”