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Stability balls make difference in St. Henry's school

Fourth grader Kevin Swanson models his stability ball in St. Henry's School. Photo by Sam Benshoof.

Students at St. Henry's School in Perham are having a bouncy good time in class, thanks to innovative new stability ball chairs.

According to Jason Smith, principal of St. Henry's, the stability balls started in the 1960s in Switzerland for physical therapy, and then were adopted by special education classes for students with special needs.

Some of the balls now at St. Henry's came from Wadena, where they were used in St. Ann's Catholic School. When St. Ann's closed and a student came from there to St. Henry's, the stability balls came with, thanks to the student's family's insistence.

Forty balls came from St. Ann's to St. Henry's, Smith said. Local parishioners then helped to purchase 40 of the additional 55 balls that were needed so that each student at St. Henry's could have a ball.

Each ball is tailored to each specific student, Smith said.

The stability balls strengthen core muscles, are better for the spine, improve focus and concentration, and even improve handwriting, Smith said.

"It's still a bit of a novelty for some students," Smith said, "But overall we've been seeing a lot of improvement in the classrooms. We're really seeing results."

Fourth grade teacher Cecile Guck said that her students have been more focused and listen in class better since they started using the balls.

"They love them," Guck said. "They are a nice new addition to the classroom."

"They feel better than the old chairs," fourth grader Kevin Swanson said.

"We have better handwriting because we're sitting up straight more," student Noell Lafone said.

In general, Smith said, there aren't many schools in Minnesota that are using the stability balls in classrooms yet. Once the balls become more well known, Smith said that he expects that more schools will start taking a look.

On average, the balls cost about $28, Smith said.

"I even had a parent contact me to order one," Smith said, after parents sat on the balls during school conferences.

For more information on the stability balls, visit