PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials with Let’s Go! Aroostook are eager to kick off a new program that will put stability balls in some area classrooms.
Sixteen classrooms in seven school districts across The County, or about 320 students, will be participating in the Wittfitt Pilot Project, which will provide training, educational materials and products to integrate stability balls in the classroom. The project is funded with a grant from the United Way of Aroostook.
“Teachers will be replacing their students’ desk chairs with stability balls to incorporate moving while learning,” said Reegan Brown, community education specialist for Aroostook County Action Program’s Healthy Aroostook. Let’s Go! Aroostook is a program of Healthy Aroostook. “The students will actually not be sitting on the stability balls until after Christmas break, but those students will be incorporating physical activity every day just by sitting on those balls.”
Aroostook County has one of the highest obesity rates in the state. For this reason, Healthy Maine Partnerships in Aroostook County has been addressing obesity since 2001. A committee was formed in 2008 to specifically address youth obesity, known as Let’s Go! Aroostook. Let’s Go! Aroostook’s goal is to increase physical activity and healthy eating for children from birth to age 18.
“Piloting teachers are passionate about improving the health of their students,” said Brown, noting that the stability balls are not toys and teachers will expect their students to act appropriately. “We’re trying to prove that by incorporating physical activity, the students will show better posture, pay better attention and so on. This was piloted in a couple schools in southern Maine and those were some of the results they saw from using stability balls in the classroom.
“Let’s Go! Aroostook will be working with the school health coordinators to collect pre, interim and post data that will hopefully show those improvements that we’re looking for … that stability ball integration in the classroom not only improves learning results but allows children to move while learning,” Brown said.
Participating school districts include SAD 1 (Presque Isle), SAD 32 (Ashland), SAD 45 (Washburn), SAD 29 (Houlton), Dr. Levesque Elementary School in Frenchville, St. Francis Elementary School and Valley Rivers Middle School in Fort Kent. Additionally, two classrooms in Fort Fairfield will be implementing the Wittfitt Pilot Project through a Healthy Aroostook minigrant.
The pilot project includes students from the elementary, middle and high school levels.
Brown said the stability balls will be ordered as soon as teachers measure their students’ height.
“We’ll be conducting a Wittfitt teacher training Oct. 26, which will be after harvest break. The teachers will then take their manuals and start sizing their students,” she said. “Once that’s done, we’ll be ordering those balls in hopes that we’ll have the order in so we’ll have them when students come back to school following Christmas break. Within the first couple weeks of January, the chairs will be replaced and the balls will be used for the rest of the school year.
“I’m excited about this project,” said Brown. “It’s going to be a learning experience, and we’re excited to be working with area teachers who are really dedicated to improving the health of their students. We need to find creative ways to keep our children physically active, and I think using stability balls is one way to do that.”
For information about Let’s Go! Aroostook or the Wittfitt Pilot Project, call Brown at 768-3056, ext. 633.