LEHMAN TWP. — Lehman-Jackson fourth-grade students were prevented from entering their classrooms first thing Monday morning.
The hold up was not due to an emergency — but a surprise.
The students were delayed in the hallway, outside of three fourth-grade classrooms, by their teachers. Once everyone arrived, the classroom doors were opened to reveal that rows of desks and hard plastic chairs had been ditched for high-top tables and stools, a futon, brightly colored yoga stability balls and cushions on the floor with low-sitting desks.
“It is a surprise,” said 10-year-old Gracie James. “It is awesome.”
The furniture change is part of the school’s new initiative to incorporate “flexible seating” into all the classrooms from kindergarten through sixth-grades, said Donald James, principal at Lehman-Jackson Elementary School in Lehman Township.
James developed the idea after reading an article in a trade magazine over the summer that touted the positive benefits of alternative seating, such as giving students an outlet for excess energy, creating an atmosphere to promote collaboration and communication by offering a variety of classroom seating and work areas.
At the start of the 2017-18 school year, James took the concept to sixth-grade teachers eager to try it. A few yoga stability balls were purchased and distributed among the sixth-grade classrooms.
“The children loved it,” James said, noting many school families supported the idea and donated funds to purchase more stability balls.
The flexible seating concept continued to gain support during the school year, James said.
One family donated enough funds to provide 25 stability balls for Justin Feinauer’s entire fourth-grade class in October or November, James said.
Feinauer observed the alternative seating benefits in his students.
“It gives them the freedom of movement,” Feinauer said. “Students are more focused and work longer on their own.”
“By giving them (students) options, we are making them feel empowered,” said Donna Richards, a fourth-grade teacher. “It also increases their communication, problem-solving skills and increases sharing opportunities.”
The Lake-Lehman Education Association’s Community Outreach Program donated $1,000 to further the initiative to all grades, James said.
Richards wanted to take the idea one step further and redesign classrooms with a variety of workstations and seats.
The furniture change was funded by a $1,000 donation from the Lake-Lehman Foundation, a nonprofit organization that aids in fulfilling student needs not covered by the district’s budget, she said. Students’ families as well as their teachers pitched in to help fund the classroom redesign, Richards said.
On Monday, the children’s faces lit up when they entered their newly furnished rooms.
Red, yellow and purple stability balls were placed in front of desks that were pushed together in groups of four. A white high-top table with stools gave a different seating choice. An oversized cushioned footrest was placed between a black futon and two black canvas folding chairs.
“It is a big change. A big surprise,” said 10-year-old Sarah Walt. “I like the tiny (low-sitting) desks because I like to sit on the floor.”
Classmate Gracie James likes the high-top table the best.
Reach Eileen Godin at 570-991-6387 or on Twitter @TLNews.