Gowanda students offered flexible seating options in classrooms

GOWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – When most adults think back to their days in school, they remember sitting in standard desks in standard rows facing the teacher at the front of the classroom. But, in some classrooms in Gowanda, the standard desks are one of many seating options for students.

“We’re just trying to teach students in a way that they can be comfortable when they learn, and so we’re giving them some options for the seating,” explained James Klubek, Superintendent for Gowanda Schools.

The options now include everything from exercise balls to rocking chairs to stools, couches, beanbags, pillows on the floor, and more. Even students who sit at the standard school desks have the ability to keep moving as they learn by using bicycle pedals on the floor or bouncing their feet on large rubber bands.

“Last year, because we didn’t have it, I usually always stood up and walked around when my teacher was teaching, and this just makes me stay sitting,” said 6th grader Reagan Covert.

“With all the different kinds of seating we have in here, it allows their bodies to be engaged which allows their minds to be more engaged,” 6th grade teacher Stephanie Gernatt added.

The flexible seating is sort of an experiment that started last year with standing desks in some classrooms. That has now expanded to the wide range of seating options in a couple classrooms at Gowanda Middle School, as well as one each in the elementary and high schools.

Parents told News 4 this is an exciting opportunity for their kids.

“I think it’s great, especially for my little one since she likes to bounce around so much and she gets distracted very easily so i think it will be a good fit for her being in this classroom,” said Holly Gernatt, the mother of a student in the 6th grade classroom with flexible seating.

Another parent, Barbara Weston, applauded “the advantage of being comfortable in the learning environment.”

“I think it’s more expression for them,” she said.

That’s really the point.

Every kid learns differently and has different needs for an ideal learning environment. The flexible seating lets kids customize their experience to their own needs to focus better and absorb more of what they see and hear.

“It’s extremely important that we can move with the kids, provide what they need for their learning, and move with times,” said Weston, who also serves as a member of the school board.

“I’d just really like to thank the administrators for having faith in us to do this project and bring this all to light, it’s been amazing,” Stephanie Gernatt said.

Eventually, the flexible seating could be in every classroom in Gowanda, or at least more of them. Later this year, the students who have been using the new seats will be able to weigh in to help decide what’s next for other students.

News 4’s Katie Alexander was at Gowanda Middle School on Thursday morning to check out the flexible seating model. Watch our full Wake Up coverage by clicking the videos below.

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