By Heather Clower
The Parsons Advocate
Some of you may have been slightly shocked when your child returned home from their first days of school to inform you they didn’t have chairs to sit in. When a one mother took her son to his Kindergarten Open House, she quickly noticed there were far more names on their cubbies than there were tables and chairs. When asked his teacher, she said they were trying a new approach which has shown to be successful with younger students known as flex seating.
So what exactly is flex seating? It is defined on the education world website as Flexible seating can range from just allowing students to choose their seats or move around the classroom more frequently to elaborately planned rooms with a wide range of seating options that allow students to choose to work at different heights and in different positions. Students learn better when they have a chance to work together. Traditional desks in rows isolate students from each other. Flexible seating allows students to easily pair up, work in small groups, or discuss as a whole class. Many flexible seating options stimulate students’ sense of touch according to venngage.
One teacher said her students will be given the choice of sitting at a traditional table with a chair, utilizing bean bag chairs, or sitting on the floor with lap desks. This allows the students more freedom to move around as they feel needed, which for children in Kindergarten and the younger elementary grades is necessary for their development.
Valerie Eye, third through fifth grade teacher at DTEMS, wished to implement this in her classroom and sought out to secure a grant to do so. “I wanted to offer flexible seating to my students so my project was called Chairs for Bears,” explained Eye. “I wanted to try flexible seating for a couple of reasons,” she continued. “One, its giving students choice and power of their learning environment, two in hopes it will help those students who can’t just sit at a desk because they really can’t sit still, and three it gives more space in a room than cramming twenty plus desks in it.” She submitted an online application where she was awarded $500 from one donor and the remainder was funded by Walmart. “Walmart sent me a nice message about how West Virginia teachers inspire them and how they chose to fully fund all projects submitted by West Virginia teachers.”
Because of this generosity, Eye received new seating options for her classroom. “We were able to purchase four stability balls, six floor seats, and four wobble stools with the grant money,” she informed. “So far it is going well,” she exclaimed. “I’ve had kids to change from their original seats to a different one because sitting with a friend is distracting or they aren’t comfortable so they choose something or somewhere else.” Eye added, “I really think that allowing that movement that some need in the stability balls stimulate their learning,” as we discussed regarding the different seating options. She continued, “The kids are excited to come to my class each day and they are taking care of the seats because they want them to last.”
Just in case the grant didn’t yield in Eye’s benefit, she had been purchasing yoga balls on her own along with crates and gaming chairs. However, thanks to the generous donations from Thelma Dietrich, Candi Sisler, and Walmart, she was able to purchase all new seating for her students. “This grant helped me provide this environment for at least sixty students yearly,” Eye added. In addition, World Visions offers a program that allows teachers to obtain free supplies for their classroom based on the free lunch program. “I was able to get free lap desks to use also,” Eye concluded, “I am so thankful for how this all came together this year.”