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Flexible seating focuses on students' comfort in classrooms

Flexible seating gives students more control over their comfort in the classroom.

GREENWOOD, Ind. (WTHR) — For some kids, summer break is over, but that doesn't mean it's back to sitting in hard wooden chairs for hours on end. Today's classroom focuses on comfort and a whole lot of activity.

"It's not just about presenting information, but it's about creating an environment where when you do present that information, it's being received by the students in the best way possible," said Southwest Elementary School Principal Beth Henry.

"The more comfortable they are, hopefully the more they're going to like school and the more they're going to be able to retain," said special education teacher Victoria Pitcock.

Pitcock teaches 6th grade special ed at Greenwood Middle School.

Pitcock added, "They require a lot of movement."

She's all about flexible seating. It's a concept that lets students decide where they sit and what they sit on.

"From bean bag chairs, to laying on the floor, bringing in pillows," said Pitcock.

"We have exercise balls," said Greenwood Middle School Assistant Principal Jennifer Brinker. "We have comfy chairs. We have bean bags. Stability stools."

And it's not just a tool for special ed teachers.

"I have a chart, flexible seating chart," said 5th Grade Teacher Becki Habig.

Habig sets the rules right from the beginning for her 5th graders over at Southwest Elementary School in Greenwood.

"We talk about how they have to be smart in their choice, and it's about their learning game and not necessarily their social game," said Habig.

And teachers such as Habig and Pitcock continue to see the benefits year after year.

"They are engaged, calm, focused," said Habig.

"We have just found that students do best with choices and being active in their learning so when they can be part of a decision of how they learn best and what works best for them they are going to thrive," said Brinker.

Teachers who use flexible seating say they've seen improvements in physical health and sensory seeking behaviors.

"Times are changing," said Henry. "Technology is a big deal. Our kids struggle to attend to a task and focus. It's just the world we live in. There's a lot of movement. A lot of instant information so it's important that as educators we respond to that, and we provide engaging lessons and atmospheres for them to learn where they feel good and they can learn."

Some educators have cited the concerns about flexible seating: safety, opportunity for distraction, and cost. But teachers in Greenwood are getting creative.

They say they've found some of their couches and other seats in their classrooms at yard sales. Pitcock even created a project on the website DonorsChoose.org to try to get new bean bag chairs, benches and stools. It's a website that allows people to contribute whatever dollar amount they want toward a teacher's classroom needs.

Habig wants to eventually get a reading loft in her classroom. She's not using DonorsChoose.org. Instead, she's hoping someone can use recycled materials to actually build her one.

She thinks it would be the perfect place for her students to get away for a few minutes to calm down, read a little and then come back down and join her class when they're ready. If this interests you, you can e-mail WTHR reporter Alyssa Raymond at Alyssa.Raymond@wthr.com. She'll pass along the message to Mrs. Habig.