Kids crave movement and it has been shown that physical activity can actually boost learning and the retention of information. Many teachers have regular Brain Breaks throughout the day, where students are given the chance to move their bodies and use some of their stored energy. Some teachers even incorporate movement into the lessons – for example counting and jumping, or using their bodies to measure. The newest development in integrating movement into education is stocking classrooms with a variety of seating options.
Teachers have noticed that students have different seating preferences when it comes to completing class work and staying on task. It is becoming more common for teachers to offer seating choices for their students, as a way to help them maintain focus and limit interruptions. The result is a more engaged and productive class.
Research from the “Get it, Got it, Go Assessment” (Ohio Department of Education) reported a significant decline in the number of times instruction was interrupted due to off-task behavior when alternative seating options were used. Flexible seating has been linked to using up excess energy, increasing motivation and engagement, improving oxygen flow to the brain, as well as improved core strength.
One local teacher who has embraced flexible seating in her classroom is Erin Young, a third grade teacher, from Georgia Elementary and Middle School. She says, “I have seen a huge difference overall in student engagement and focus. It has made a significant difference in the academic lives of those students with ADHD, ADD, anxiety, among other learning challenges. Students use these flexible seating options as a “fidget”, which in turn helps them stay on task for longer periods of time. Students no longer dread going to their seats to work on or listen to a lesson.”
Mrs. Young purchased all of her seating through a grant called donorschoose.org. They always have grants available for teachers. She also asked friends, parents and family to donate to match the grant and help cover expenses.
Her favorite seating option is the Hokki Stool, followed by the Safco ball seats. She also has desk bikes, Runtz ball seats, yoga ball chairs, stable cube seats, yoga mats, balance cushions, under table stationary elliptical pedal machines ,and rubber bands that go on the front of the chairs, called Bouncy Bands. She hopes to add Turnstone stools and Ergo seats for next year.
She adds, “Students in my classroom do not have assigned seats. They choose where they sit on a daily basis. This is the overall point of flexible seating. It has never once been an issue. They choose where they learn best.” Other teachers at Georgia Elementary are following Mrs. Young’s model and starting to integrate alternative seating into their classroom.
RiseVT’s Small Business Umbrella just wrapped up the “Mile A Day Challenge” for its members. For four weeks, members had to log one mile for six days each week. A “Mile” could be walking, or one of the many equivalent activities that RiseVT provided. Ultimately, there were eight member businesses participating:
- Rail City Market
- Duke’s Fitness Center
- Champlain Valley Area Health Education Center (CVAHEC)
- Albans Free Library
- The Samaritan House
- Re/Max Destinations
- Franklin County Caring Communities
- Choice Physical Therapy
The eight businesses had 37 individuals logging their miles, resulting in a total of 2302 miles covered!
RiseVT provided weekly giveaways to participants, as well as grand prizes for both the person with the most miles logged, and a random drawing out of anyone who averaged six miles per week. The two winners were Nate Yandow from Duke’s Fitness and Steve LaRosa from The St. Albans Free Library. CVAHEC won the team division and will be receiving a prize of their choice that they can use to bolster their worksite wellness for staff.
One mile a day is a great place to start for a health challenge. To complete it, it takes less than 20 minutes, so you can fit it into a busy day. It is an attainable amount and it is difficult to make an excuse to not do it. The idea is that once you get going, sometimes you surprise yourself and go a little further.
Are you interested in bringing a challenge such as this into your workplace? Reach out to RiseVT and we are happy to provide templates and possible technical assistance to help your employees walk their way into wellness. Workplace challenges not only help to keep employees healthy, but also build community and an opportunity for some healthy competition.
RiseVT realizes that Franklin and Grand Isle counties have many businesses that are smaller and may not have the resources or the staff to build a wellness program. So, for businesses with less than 20 employees, we have developed a Small Business Umbrella group. We meet quarterly and are still welcoming new members. Let us know if you want to join this group and bring wellness to your small business!
Chances are that you have heard that it is important to practice mindfulness in the workplace. Many large companies, such as Google and General Mills are investing in mindfulness training for their staff. Why? They realize that staff’s attention is constantly being sought for, whether it is Facebook, email, family issues, juggling schedules, or even work. It is often hard to simply focus on the task at hand. When we practice mindfulness, studies show an increase in cognitive functioning and less stress.
The good news is that you don’t necessarily need a big training or investment to get started; you just need a few simple tips:
- Allow yourself a 3 Minute Breathing Space. Google it – there are numerous audio guides and YouTube videos to walk you through. Carve out 3 minutes several times a day to simply close your eyes and focus on your breath. Notice how it feels, notice how it sounds. Can you slow it down? Count how long each inhale and exhale takes. Do you feel awkward doing this at work? Then do it in your car before you enter the workplace. Do it on your lunch break. Set a timer on your phone. Just take the time and you will notice a difference.
- Don’t Multitask. Once seen as a resume worthy skill, we now realize that true multi-tasking often leads to more mistakes and less creativity. We are actually less efficient when we multi-task. Focus on what you are working on. When you feel distracted by someone else’s conversation, an email, the smell of someone’s lunch, simply notice it and how it is making you feel. Are your shoulders getting tight, are your eyebrows knitting, feeling tense? Release it. Before you start working, make the choice to focus and be aware of that choice.
- Practice Gratitude. Human nature wants to dwell on what is going wrong. We are anticipating things not working out. Stop. Focus on what is going well. Which co-workers do you enjoy? Maybe you like receiving a paycheck? It can give you a more realistic picture of what you want out of a job and what that position brings to you. Practicing gratitude makes you more appreciative of what you do have and can impact the quality of your work.
- Accept what you cannot control. We can’t control others’ behavior, our work environment, assigned tasks, etc. Sometimes, we may have even done something to create an unpleasant feeling, such as missing an important scheduled appointment. The best that you can do is accept what happened and move on. We can never go back in time, we can only handle how we react to the present and our plan to move forward. When we accept things, we can significantly lower our stress and anxiety.
RiseVT and their esteemed partners are back at it with a new round of Show Up events! Do you recall driving by Taylor Park in the summer between 6:00 and 7:00 am and seeing a slew of your neighbors working out? For the past two summers RiseVT has organized weekly workouts in the park. The first year, they were led by RiseVT staff and last summer, local instructors came and led the masses through some sweaty fun.
The number of people “showing up” hit 40 on some occasions, so RiseVT wanted to keep the enthusiasm alive. However, living in northern VT makes early workouts in the park a little less appealing once the days grow shorter and colder….not that you shouldn’t get out there if you have the determination (and a headlamp).
We are fortunate to have many excellent instructors, facilities and owners in our community to continue our FREE workouts. We have partnered with Duke’s Fitness Center, The St. Albans Recreation Department, Collins Perley Sports and Fitness Center, RAW Fitness, Mystic Waters, Jane Yoga and Pamela Easterday Meditation to bring a wide array of classes. Now, any week from now until mid-April, you can attend a FREE class, ranging from meditation, yoga, Zumba, bootcamp, strength classes, cardio classes and hula hooping! Thanks to Jan Sweet, we will also be having two classes in Highgate.
All classes are for ALL abilities and ages. The instructors are able to instruct with modifications to meet your level. There is no pressure to keep up, just come, move and have some fun! You do not have to sign up, except for spinning at Duke’s on March 25th, due to a limited number of bikes. Each class will also have fun prizes and giveaways, such as Hannaford gift cards, Kevin Smith’s gift cards, Rail City gift cards, State Parks passes and RiseVT swag.
For more information, check out the “Events” section of the RiseVT Facebook page or contact Jessica Frost at firstname.lastname@example.org. Are you an instructor? Reach out, if you have an interest in leading a class. See you at the Show UP!
Northwestern Counseling and Support Services recently received recognition as a Gold RiseVT business. They have an active Wellness Committee that meets monthly to work on their vision of, “Creating a Healthier Workforce, One Employee at a Time”. They have been working with their insurance company, Blue Cross Blue Shield, to tap into their wellness benefits through the “Accountable Blue” program. This has enabled NCSS to build upon their already robust wellness program.
Here are just some of their accomplishments within the past year:
- NCSS is a Breastfeeding Friendly Employer
- They have coordinated a site visit from the Lactation Consultant at the Vermont Department of Health to see how they can better support breastfeeding women.
- Free snowshoes for staff to use
- Discounted gym memberships
- Immunization clinics
- Staff are encouraged to use breaks for physical activity.
- Free on-site fitness classes/activities for staff: Zumba, floor hockey and beginners Bootcamp
- Move More Minutes Challenge
- This led to the creation of 9 staff testimonials, which will be rotated and displayed in the workplace.
- Fresh Fruit Friday – they held one in September and may make it a quarterly event
- They worked with Vitality Vending to include more local, fresh and healthy choices in their vending machines.
- They created a stretching poster, using the IT staff to demonstrate the exercises, and encourage stretch breaks in the workplace.
- RiseVT’s Health Coach will offer a Lunch and Learn on how to use RiseVT supplied exercise bands.
There are two factors which have really allowed NCSS’s program to blossom. This first is a dedicated committee. By having a committee that meets regularly, a business can insure that their programming will continue to move forward and new ideas can be explored. NCSS’s committee is full of employees who are excited about wellness and are happy to contribute their ideas. The second important factor is that their decisions are based upon survey data. Earlier in the year, the entire staff completed a Health Assessment to evaluate the overall health of the population. They also completed an Interest Survey to see what staff wanted to focus on and what sort of activities they would take part in. This data allowed the committee to focus their efforts in areas that were not only needed to improve the staff’s health, but also delivered in a way that would ensure participation.
Congratulations to NCSS! We cannot wait to see what you bring in the New Year!