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Look, Mom! No Chairs!

The dream classroom for restless students may also be the key to better learning—and battling obesity.

By Tiffany Chaparro | August , 2006
Allison Radke perches on an exercise ball in the chairless classroom at Elton Hills Elementary School in Rochester, Minnesota.<br /><br />
Allison Radke perches on an exercise ball in the chairless classroom at Elton Hills Elementary School in Rochester, Minnesota.

At Elton Hills Elementary School in Rochester, Minnesota, students don’t just get away with fidgeting, they are encouraged to stretch, stand, kneel, and even bounce. It’s OK that they don’t sit in chairs during class—because they may not have any. The idea is to keep students on the move, make them comfortable while they learn, and motivate them to burn calories, fighting childhood obesity.

James Levine, director of the Active Life research team at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, invented the first “chairless classroom.” It is outfitted with Apple laptops, video iPods, personalized whiteboards, adjustable podiums, and exercise balls in the place of chairs. Thirty students in the fourth and fifth grades are participating in the experiment.

Groups of students work on different activities during a single class. Some kids take a spelling test while walking, and others listen to an audio file of their teacher, Phil Rynearson, reading a book. While students learn, Levine measures how many calories the children burn, using sensors attached to their legs.

Are kids staying trim and doing better academically? Rynearson says he sees an increase in their focus, but one student, Mariah, says, “My legs get tired, and I like sitting down.”


Photo credit: ©Janet Hostetter/AP Wide World

About the Author

Tiffany Chaparro is a contributing writer for Scholastic News Online.

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