Bouncy balls for fidgety kids prove calming for classroom

SHERWOOD, Ore. - Parents know how much of a chore it is to get a child to sit still but one second-grade teacher may have found the solution.

In Sari Hedges' classroom at Hopkins Elementary there's no sitting still allowed. All her students sit on one of those large exercise balls all day. It might be expected there'd be chaos with 7 year olds on bouncy balls, but in Hedges' classroom the kids are calm.

Hedges replaced the standard chairs with the exercise balls this year with the help of a private, nonprofit grant she applied for. The goal is to get rid of that excess energy through controlled movement throughout the day and help settle the students' minds for school work.

Hedges acknowledges that some people thought she was a little off her rocker.

"But they (the kids) love it and anybody who comes to our class thinks it is pretty cool," she says.

She wanted a way to get her students to focus and sitting still was almost out of the question. So she figured, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

"This gives them the chance to (have) freedom of movement while they're listening and learning," she says.

There were some critics.

"People think the kids can't handle them because they're balls, and they just might throw them, kick them or whatever - that it might be more chaotic in the classroom, but overall I think it helps calm them down for the most part," says Hedges.

She got the idea reading about similar success stories in schools across the country.

There are rules, however. The children can bounce if it's under control and two feet must remain on the ground at all times. If students break the rules, they have to sit in a regular chair.

There are two other second-grade teachers at Hopkins who are now trying to get the same fitness balls in their classrooms.