Get­ting Hokki at All Hal­lows

North River school us­ing stools, en­cour­ages stu­dent ac­tiv­ity

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY NI­CHOLAS MERCER

The Grade 1 stu­dents at All Hal­lows El­e­men­tary in North River are sit­ting a bit dif­fer­ently these days.

In­stead of the tra­di­tional four­legged hard plas­tic chair, stu­dents like Avery Yet­man and Kearsten Jack­man are us­ing Hokki Stools in the class­room.

The school or­dered 64 stools as a pi­lot project which cost some $10,000 through its in­struc­tional budget.

Shaped like a mush­room, the stools are made of rub­ber and plas­tic and al­low stu­dents to move in all di­rec­tions. With a con­vex base, they pro­mote bet­ter pos­ture and free stu­dents from the con­straints of the tra­di­tional chair. “They’re great,” said Avery. There was a bit of an ad­just­ment pe­riod for stu­dents. All of a sud­den they were free to move as they pleased in class with­out be­ing scold- ed or rep­ri­manded by their teacher.

“Once the nov­elty wore off, they set­tled in,” said teacher Lois Pet­ten.

The im­me­di­ate re­turns have been great for the school. Teach­ers re­port stu­dents are pay­ing at­ten­tion in class more.

This in­creased at­ten­tion means stu­dents are gain­ing more from in­struc­tion.

“I think they’re ex­cel­lent,” said Pet­ten. “They cer­tainly help for chil­dren who need to be on the move.”

You won’t hear any com­plaints com­ing from stu­dents.

When asked what they liked most about their new stools, Avery and Kearsten both smiled and noted the en­hanced mo­bil­ity they were be­ing pro­vided.

“It helps me think,” said Kearsten. “They’re in my favourite colour,” added Avery.

Watch­ing a class­room ses­sion in ac­tion, stu­dents are more en­gaged in what they’re do­ing. It al­lows them to bal­ance their need to keep on the move and abil­ity to learn.

The stools also pro­mote proper pos­tures in stu­dents and build core strength.

“They’re def­i­nitely more at­ten­tive,” said Pet­ten.

Nat­u­ral fit

The stools fall di­rectly in line with the school’s phi­los­o­phy of chil­dren be­ing ac­tive and en­gaged, said prin­ci­pal Kevin Giles.

Giles was the driv­ing force be­hind the ac­qui­si­tion of 64 stools for the school af­ter see­ing them at a con­fer­ence in Al­berta last year.

“We are about hav­ing class­rooms that are more invit­ing and en­gage kids more,” he said.

The stools do not make noise, they are safe for the chil­dren to use and are easy to clean and store.

They also pro­mote an ac­tive life­style, ac­cord­ing to Giles. While not ex­er­cise-driven, the stools build the core strength in stu­dents as they move the stool.

“It’s the whole phi­los­o­phy of fid­get­ing boosts the brain,” he said. “An ac­tive body means an ac­tive brain and an en­gaged brain.”

In­creased tempo

When speak­ing with teach­ers about the stools and how they are be­ing re­ceived, Giles said they have been telling him classes are a bit quicker.

“They’re telling me the tempo is up,” he said.

This in­crease in tempo and rhythm could be at­trib­uted to fewer in­ter­rup­tions as a re­sult of stu­dents squeak­ing their chairs or be­ing rest­less.

“(Stu­dents) are in with the flow now,” said Giles.

The stools move class­rooms away from the tra­di­tional and do away with some of the con­form­ity that con­fine stu­dents. And, that’s OK with Giles. “I think schools need to be dif­fer­ent and I think schools need to go be­yond the tra­di­tion,” he said.

These stools are be­ing viewed as a pi­lot project at the school, al­though chances are good more grades could be re­ceiv­ing them.

“The one con­stant ques­tion I keep get­ting is when are we get­ting them in our class,” said Giles.

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