Kildeer Countryside fifth graders, Scout and Allie, took a lead role in sponsoring a grant with second graders to help students in one of the 2nd grade classes focus and learn more efficiently by sitting on exercise balls. The girls already knew of two students who were using the balls as opposed to chairs to
successfully improve their ability to learn in class. K.I.D.S. (Kids Initiating a Difference in Schools) is a grant program funded by the District 96 Foundation. When Scout and Allie heard about the opportunity to make a difference, they suggested the idea to Mr. Bill Hellyer, a District 96 occupational therapist, and
Jacqueline Flickinger, a second grade teacher, who immediately supported the idea and encouraged them to apply.
As an Occupational Therapist serving Kildeer Elementary, Country Meadows Elementary and Woodlawn Middle schools, Mr. Hellyer uses his unique expertise to help students prepare for and perform important learning and school-related activities while creating a more confident student. Occupational Therapists
support academic and non-academic outcomes, including social skills, math, reading and writing (i.e.,literacy), behavior management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, and more for children. To help with this social-emotional learning initiative, District 96 schools are using ideas and methods from a curriculum designed to foster self-regulation and emotional control written and created by Leah M. Kuypers, MA Ed. OTR/L called the "Zones of Regulation". The Zones categorize students' states of alertness and
emotions into four colored zones. The Green Zone is the optimum learning zone where a child is described as "alert, happy, focused, content and ready to learn." Mr. Hellyer says, "although educators are aware that people learn in a variety of traditional ways--by listening to a lecture, for example--we are encouraged by new studies that demonstrate the added benefits of incorporating movement or kinesthetics into teaching strategies." Mr. Hellyer and Ms. Flickinger easily combined kinesthetic learning with Zones of Regulation to help Scout and Allie's grant dream come alive.
The K.I.D.S. Grant project invigorated the whole class. Ms. Flickinger saw an excellent opportunity to incorporate a persuasive writing exercise into the project. Her students responded wonderfully by writing papers expressing how the balls could help them focus better, concentrate and listen more attentively while helping them get the "wiggles" out. To further emphasize their views and ideas about the project, students enthusiastically volunteered to stand up in front of their class and "make their case" to the District 96 Foundation Prize Patrol. They described in detail how the balls would be used appropriately in class. Little did these students know, the Prize Patrol needed little convincing and had a surprise for them: twenty-three balls were rolled into Ms. Flickinger's class, one for each 2nd grade student as well as one for each of the
two 5th grade leaders. It was an incredible moment of triumph for all of the students and their supportive teachers, and a moving moment for the Foundation volunteers present. The Zones of Regulation are easily
explained, understood and embraced by students throughout the school and empowers students to take ownership of their education by finding responsible, focused ways to learn. These students aren't done: They plan to chart the impact of learning on balls to share with fellow students and schools.
Third grade grant winners Allie, Abigail, Katie, Grace and Zosia co-wrote grants for fire-proof bean bag chairs to create a "green zone" environment more conducive to learning, collaborating and sharing new ideas. Third graders Dallin, Braden , Alexandra submitted and were awarded grant requests for additional math board games to help fellow students with math concepts. Woodlawn Middle School sixth grader, Saurav, won a versatile Elenco Snap Circuit Green Alternative Energy Kit for his Science class, to provide
an opportunity for fellow classmates to collaborate and further expand their knowledge by working on new and more challenging projects.
The District 96 Foundation is a non-profit organization whose vision is to provide financial assistance to staff and students to enhance their learning opportunities while supporting ideas and resources that will further expand their 21st-century learning skill set. For more information about the Foundation and its mission, please visit www.96foundation.org.