Stability balls, the large inflatable balls used for yoga and exercise, are also used in classrooms in place of chairs. The balls aren't used for fun, but rather to help students sit up straight and engage the muscles and the parts of their brains needed to remain balanced on a large ball. Stability ball classroom chairs provide benefits ranging from quieter classrooms to more attentive students.
Engaging the Mind
When students sit on stability balls, both sides of their brains are engaged in keeping their bodies centered on the balls. And when the brain is stimulated, it's more focused on learning. Not only is the brain better suited to processing new information, young minds are also better able to concentrate on exams, note-taking, class discussions, and other aspects of classroom learning.
A study published in the October 2003 issue of the "American Journal of Occupational Therapy" found that students with attention challenges, such as attention deficit hyperactive disorder, tended to focus better when using stability balls instead of chairs. The study revealed that students behaved better and that language skills improved, and that students and teachers preferred the use of stability balls in the classroom instead of chairs. Fidgeting helps children with ADHD concentrate, and just a little movement on the stability balls can meet their demands for expelling excess energy.
Without a back or side rails, stability balls force children to sit up straight and engage in better posture than they might ordinarily in a standard school chair and desk. When students are sitting up straight, they're more likely to pay attention. A study on the positive effects of students using stability balls in the classroom in the February 2009 issue of "Chronicle of Kinesiology and Physical Education in Higher Education" noted, however, that a stability ball is not a long-term cure-all for posture, and that bad habits can return because there's no back support to take pressure off the tailbone.
Teachers who swapped out traditional chairs for stability balls and even stationary exercise bikes noticed a change in posture, enthusiasm for reading and other desk work and paying attention in general, according to a 2010 article in "Education World." Teachers interviewed for the story were unsure how the change would impact students, but they agreed that once students got used to the novelty of the stability balls or other options, their focus and overall performance improved. In addition, the article said that the science unit that centered around the human body was even more relevant to students who had been learning about core muscles and how the brain is involved with balance.