Nicole Gardner-Fink believes physical movement helps her third-graders learn. So, a set of floor pedals sits under each student’s desk.
Some students pedal constantly during classes, and others pedal now and then. Some students even take the pedals with them when they move to a different part of their classroom at Harvey Dunn Elementary.
The pedals are not noisy nor distracting, and students love them, Gardner-Fink says. “I think they help the students to focus, and the constant movement is beneficial to their physical well-being as well.”
Gardner-Fink bought 26 sets of floor pedals for her classroom with an Innovation in Education Grant for $1,280 that she received from the Education Foundation.
The Education Foundation Board awarded 18 grants for a record high total of $47,815 for the 2015-2016 school year.
Gardner-Fink initially applied for grant funding for eight stationary bikes for use while students studied reading and language arts. However, she changed her request after members of a grant evaluation panel suggested that she consider floor pedals instead.
“They asked good questions, like who would maintain the bikes,” Gardner-Fink says. They also raised questions about space needs for stationary bikes.
Gardner-Fink researched the pedal option, liked it and was pleased to be able to get enough grant funding to buy pedal sets to supply every student in her classroom. The classroom décor also includes tropical umbrellas, which give the room a relaxed, summertime feel.
Physical activity helps children’s brains work more productively, she says.
Gardner-Fink hopes that the physical activity she encourages helps the students think better and focus longer to learn more about subjects such as mathematics and reading.
Dr. Teresa Boysen, principal at Harvey Dunn, says the floor pedals have been a great motivator for students.
Some faculty members have said they would like pedals or stability balls at their desk to help them maintain focus on long days, Boysen says.
Gardner-Fink and Boysen appreciate the Education Foundation’s ongoing efforts to provide grants to teachers for innovative classroom practices.
“The Education Foundation has benefited hundreds and probably thousands of students over the years with projects that are research-based,” Boysen says.
Gardner-Fink has a history of thinking creatively to help students release energy and learn at the same time.
She previously replaced most of the chairs in her classroom room with exercise balls, called stability balls.
Sitting on the balls allows the students to move slightly and strengthen core muscles that help them stay balanced, she says.
The elastic balls can be adjusted in size to accommodate height differences in students, and four, leg-like prongs on the bottom help so that the balls don’t roll away.
“I’ve noticed that kids have a harder time sitting still than they used to,” says Gardner-Fink, who is in her 22nd year of teaching and her 17th with the Sioux Falls District. “We don’t have as much recess time as we used to, and the kids need to move.”
To read all of the articles in the latest edition of the Foundation Newsletter, click to download your copy. November 2016 Newsletter