Many teachers find creative solutions for their students’ needs, but they don’t always have the resources to make it a reality. Rebecca Pfaffenberger, a middle school teacher at Rousseau McClellan School 91, is one of these teachers. She knew that her students needed to move more to get the most out of school, but didn’t have the resources to outfit her entire classroom with what she believed would be paramount to her students’ success: exercise balls.
Pfaffenberger’s seventh and eighth grade students have been in Montessori classrooms most of their educational lives, so making a transition to a more traditional seating arrangement often made it difficult for them to concentrate on classroom work.
“Through kindergarten, primary and much of intermediate school, kids get to choose to work on the floor because they work with materials, not paper and pencil. They set up their workspace on the floor. In middle school, we do more work with paper and pencil and sitting on the floor is not convenient. It doesn’t work as well. I noticed that our students, when they get to middle school, really struggle with that. I wanted to provide a transition for them so they could be productive with the work we do in middle school and still get the movement they need as children,” she said.
Pfaffenberger had brought an exercise ball into the classroom for her personal needs, but saw when a student was using it that it allowed them to be more focused and improve their classroom performance. She decided to pursue purchasing more balls and an air pump for her students through working with DonorsChoose.org. The IPS Education Foundation helped fund her project through their matching grant partnership with DonorsChoose.org.
“I couldn’t believe how quickly my project got funded,” Pfaffenberger said. “It took one week to get it funded, and in two to three weeks my materials were in classroom.”
By keeping a variety of seating options in her classroom, Pfaffenberger is able to meet each of her student’s individual learning needs. A lot of their class work is done at tables, so she offers three seating options to her students: traditional chairs, stools and the exercise balls.
“Kids who need [the exercise balls] use them. They know who they are. I love that about Montessori kids – they know what they need as learners. They know they need to get rid of energy,” she said
Through this partnership, Pfaffenberger and teachers like her are able to create opportunities to help IPS students be their most successful.