2017-18 Innovation Grant Evaluation

Cindy Feeney

Rincon Middle School

 

Sensory Seating in the Science Classroom

 

Summary

 

Initially, I purchased eight each of three different sensory seating devices (inflatable wobble cushions, memory foam wedge cushions and foot bands) which provide limited movement while seated, and are designed to promote increased attention, improved posture and additional exercise by supporting sensory needs. As a science lesson, students tested each of the devices (and no device as the control) over  a 4-week period. They set their own criteria for success, collected and analyzed their own data to determine the effectiveness of the device options.

 

In a pre-survey, 144 students responded to questions concerning the comfort level of the (blue plastic) seats in our science classroom. I gathered information on students’ awareness of behaviors that I find concerning: fidgeting, tipping their chair, getting out of their seat, slouching or putting their feet up on the chair.

 

Often    Sometimes    Statement

21.6    61.9        I fidget while I work (play with something, tap my foot or pencil, bounce my knee, etc)

21.6    47.5        I get “antsy” or “wiggly” if I am in my seat for a while.

9.4    45.3        Mrs. Feeney has said to me, “Where should you be?” because I was out of my seat.

6.5    37.4        I tip my chair back in science class.

12.9    52.5        I slouch down in my seat.

17.3    33.1        I prefer to have my feet up on my chair when I sit.

 

The only question a majority of students didn’t acknowledge doing was tipping their chair back, which made sense because in my observations, there are a handful (of boys mostly) that do this in each class.

 

Students were also given open-ended questions about their concerns about seating and their wishes for how we could improve the chairs. They brought up concerns that I didn’t even know were an issue, such as legs falling asleep because their feet don’t touch the floor. They also brought up concerns that we were not able to address in this project, such as long hair getting pulled out by the bolts in the chair backs.

 

In all six of my 6th grade science sections, I introduced the experimental design process and vocabulary, and we did a written example scenario which tested perfume on bee attraction. Then we analyzed the survey results, which I posted as pie charts around the classroom. We held a class brainstorm about the different methods we could use to test the devices. Students agreed that we would rotate the devices daily, and each day they would rate their comfort level using the standard pain chart with faces that they use at the doctor’s office. I reversed the reversed the numbers and adjusted the descriptions to refer to comfort level. A 10 comfort level is the most comfortable you have ever been. In addition, students were to make tally marks each time they observed themselves doing the behavior they self-selected to monitor.

 

Very early on, we realized that students were not able to monitor their own behavior accurately. So we decided to film our classes using time lapse video. At the end of the project, we would examine the video and count behaviors. However, I was not able to securely download the videos either in google drive or onto iPads in a way that ensured students wouldn’t be able to post the video somewhere else. Instead, I played the videos to the entire class, and students watched to monitor themselves. We then graphed the results of comfort level and the number of times the behaviors occurred to see if there was a correlation.

 

Discoveries

 

Students and I learned a lot during this project, especially by viewing the time lapse video. Personally, I noticed I move around a lot during class, I rarely sit, and that I must work on improving my posture! I also noticed that, although I try to build in breaks and movement during science class,  students are in their seats a lot more than they should be.

 

Students also had some “a-ha” moments about their own slouching, getting out of their seat, or fidgeting. Some of them got up or slouched dozens of times in a 2-period block! For the most part, the data backed up our hypothesis that as they were more comfortable, the behavior they were monitoring decreased (less slouching/fidgeting, etc.) Chair tipping completely stopped during the duration of the experiment.

 

Next Steps

 

When I ordered the items in my project, the prices had dropped dramatically. As a result, students were aware at the beginning of the project that we would have money to spend at the end, based on our findings. At the end of the project, students voted on which device they liked the best. Parents and family members also tried out the seating devices at our Showcase Night. Overwhelmingly, students and family members preferred the memory foam wedge, followed by the foot bands. Students commented that while they liked it the best, there were still issues with the wedge cushion design, which many of them flipped around and used backwards because they felt they were slipping off the wedge shape. I also noticed when students were not happy with the wobble cushion, they slipped it behind their back instead of under themselves. We researched a different memory foam cushion design and decided to go with a square shape, which would allow students more flexibility with how to use it. They could put under themselves or behind their back. This might also address the hair getting pulled out from the bolts.

 

Since the foot band was also popular, we ordered more of these as well. We did not order more of the wobble cushions, as they were not well-liked. Students didn’t like the wiggliness or the protruding nubs. I also discovered that some students didn’t like any seating device on their chairs, which means I don’t need to make sure every seat has something.  I will now be able to share devices among my 6th grade science colleagues, so that all of our 6th graders will have access to sensory seating. At the suggestion of our assistant principal, I also purchased a weighted lap blanket, which we will add to our seating device options next year.

 

 

Moving Forward

 

Next year, I plan to implement classroom use of  sensory seating devices very early in the school year. I also plan to use time lapse video to help make students aware of their own behaviors and needs. After reviewing the video, students can set behavior goals and use sensory seating to help them achieve them.

 

I also plan to share additionally purchased devices with my 6th grade science colleagues so that all 6th graders at our school have access to tested and student-approved sensory seating options.

 

Students reviewed a classroom furniture catalogue to see if there were other ideas for future consideration beyond the scope of this project. They really liked the two chair designs pictured here, because they can rock back and wiggle. Their curiosity – and mine –  is heightened to the possibilities of alternative seating.

 

Itemized Budget

 

Item Cost per Item Quantity Total cost
Memory Foam Wedge 12.99 10 129.90
Memory Foam Cushion 16×16 16.99 9 152.91
Wobble Cushion 6.29 10 62.90
Footbands 9.99 12 pks of 2 119.88
Weighted Lap Blanket 23.99 1 23.99
shipping 3.99
tax 14.14
Total 507.71