Flexible seating allows students to learn in their own ways in Milltown


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MILLTOWN – Fourth graders Connor Buckley and Ben Fama at Joyce Kilmer School literally bounced their ways through a math lesson on place values while sitting on flexible seating bouncy balls.

On Sept. 19, the students in Marissa Boylston and Amanda Vacca’s classroom were divided into pairs and chose a selection of flexible seating from the bouncy balls, scoop chairs, wobbly chairs, bean bags, wiggle cushions and standing desks with a foot bar. Once they made their selection, the students found a spot in the classroom to work together on their math lesson worksheet.

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Connor said his favorite flexible seating is the bouncy ball because he can move around on it.

“I had [the flexible seating] in third grade and I’m happy to have it this year,” he said, adding not only does the movement help him focus on his school work, it is also fun.

Ben said this is the first time he is using the flexible seating in a school setting and thought it was pretty “cool.”

“I like the scoop chair because I get to move around and it helps me concentrate,” he said.

Over the past two years, the Milltown Education Foundation Inc. [MEF] has allocated $18,000 towards implementing flexible seating in every classroom at Joyce Kilmer – grades 4 through 8 – and Parkview schools – grades pre-Kindergarten to third grade.

Since then, the flexible seating has been phased into the classrooms.

Laura Carasso, a former teacher in Milltown and president of the MEF, said when she took over as president she noticed the foundation had accumulated closed to $10,000 in grant funds.

In previous years, some $1,000-$5,000 in grants would be used to fund small scale teacher projects; however, this is the first time the MEF has spent funds on something district-wide.

“Flexible seating provides more activity, builds core strength and increases student engagement,” Carasso said.

This year, MEF is collaborating with district and some outside grantors to spend an additional $25,000 on a pre-K and Kindergarten large motor and sensory playground at the Parkview School, as well as support the growth of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program there.

“Next year we expect to fund $12,000-$15,000 in grants and we look to continue to raise more funds to support the community,” Carasso said.

On Sept. 21, the MEF held its fourth annual Oktoberfest for Education at the American Legion Pavilion, which is the foundation’s largest fundraising event.

MEF, according to its website, is an independent, non-profit organization providing financial assistance and stimulating educational opportunities that are otherwise not available through the Milltown School District’s operating budget.

Carasso said MEF is made up of seven trustees and a few volunteers.

Schools Superintendent Stephanie Brown said the MEF has always partnered with the district to bring current educational trends into the classroom.

“The teachers and students have embraced flexible seating as a way to appreciate the diverse learning styles of our students and promote a positive classroom environment,” she said.

Joyce Kilmer Principal William Veit; along with Jackie Citro, assistant principal at Joyce Kilmer and Parkview; and Kate Scotto, treasurer of MEF, visited a fourth-grade and fifth-grade class to observe students utilize the flexible seating on Sept. 19.

Veit said the comfort from the flexible seating has led to more productivity. He said the MEF has been fantastic and supportive.

Not only do the students have flexible seating options, they also have tables with indents, which adds more comfort for the students and some of the tables act as dry erase boards for students to use.

In Chelsea Devine’s fifth-grade class at Joyce Kilmer, it was math day where students worked in teams and traveled to station to station, which had various flexible seating options.

Student Leo Carone said he liked the crates with the cushions and the exercise balls so he could move around.

“It helps me concentrate,” he said.

Student Jonathan Regan said he liked the floor seat because it is comfortable and he is able to move around.

“It’s relaxing,” he said, noting it helps him concentrate when he is on the computer.

Vacca, who is a fourth-grade special education teacher, said the flexible seating provides an opportunity for students to become more focused and engaged.

“I had heard about flexible seating back in college, but didn’t see it in the classroom until I came to the district,” she said.

Melissa Herre, a second-grade teacher at Parkview, said providing students with the opportunity to make their own choice to choose from wobbly stools to the reading bench to learn better has been pivotal in increased engagement in activities in her classroom. She said her students make their own choice each day.

Nicole Cassalle, a first-grade teacher at Parkview, said the process to bring in flexible seating started two years ago.

“I have noticed kids who need a little more movement now ask for the flexible seating because they know it helps them concentrate,” she said.

Parkview Principal Eric Siegel said the school-wide flexible seating has given an opportunity for the students at Parkview School to embrace their individualized learning styles throughout the day.

“Teaming with the MEF has made this endeavor possible,” he said.

For more information about MEF visit www.MilltownEF.org.

Contact Kathy Chang at kchang@newspapermediagroup.com.

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