Texas Teacher Finds Unique Way to Keep her Students Fit while they Sit at their Desks
04/15/2010

Austin Independent School District teacher Sue Backhaus has discovered a way to keep her students healthy and motivated while they sit at their desks. Yoga balls have replaced the chairs in Mrs. Backhaus' first grade classroom at Gullett Elementary.

Online PR News – 15-April-2010 – – AUSTIN, TX--Gullett ##--2--## School first grade teacher Sue Backhaus has discovered a way to keep her first graders fit just by having them sit at their desks. At the beginning of the year, Mrs. Backhaus asked for the parent's permission to replace all of the chairs in her classroom with yoga (exercise) balls. Wonder why anyone would want a first grade group of 8 girls and 10 boys to have access to big, fun, bouncy balls all day long? According to Backhaus, she has always been keenly aware of the need for movement in children, thus incorporating yoga, song and dance into the lessons that she teaches. She is also a proponent of brain theory which states that oxygenated brains internalize information better. After using the exercise balls for one week, the joy that she saw on her student's faces was enough to convince her that she had done the right thing.

Aside from the children being thrilled to sit on a yoga ball all day, Mrs. Backhaus also discovered that there were many more benefits to their new seats. She noticed that her group of once very active first graders become settled and calmed, almost as though the children's energy was being absorbed by the ball and that the children were able to burn energy without distracting others. From an academic stand-point, Backhaus says, "In my opinion, having happier students creates a positive emotional IQ, which can be directly related to improved academic performance. I see daily benefits in children as they read for longer, sustained periods while sitting on balls, which has increased stamina." Many of the parents have commented that their children are more 'level' after school. Before, it seemed to be one extreme or the other - either hyperactive and 'climbing the walls' or completely lethargic. Nowadays, the children are calmer but have a lot of positive energy. Not one parent has commented that the balls are distracting or that their child's academic performance has slipped. In fact, one parent commented that her daughter's math had improved ten-fold since the arrival of the yoga balls. Other parents have said that their children sleep better at night. It's hard to say if the positives are directly or indirectly related to the balls, but as of yet, there is not a decline in her first grade classroom's academics. Mrs. Backhaus is currently one of four teachers at Gullett that have replaced classroom chairs with yoga balls.

Mrs. Backhaus would like to continue to offer yoga balls instead of seats in her classroom and has been researching writing an ABC grant to see if she can get the cost of the balls approved so that neither she nor the parents have to absorb the cost. The parents from the 2009-2010 school year paid for their child's ball that was ordered at http://www.schooloutfitters.com.

Research has shown us that sitting on a yoga ball for an extended amount of time....
1. Forces proper spine alignment.
2. Causes frequent change of position. (This helps reduce damage caused by prolonged sitting in the same
position.)
3. Improves fitness.
4. Improves balance.
5. Strengthens ab muscles.
6. Improves circulation.
7. Reduces lethargy.
8. Burns up to 350 calories per day.
9. Is inexpensive.
10. C’mon, its fun!
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