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Education in motion: 'Sit still' not to be heard in these classrooms

Staff writer

Two of Marion’s elementary school classrooms will not be having teachers say, ‘Sit still!”

Kindergarten teachers Sarah Mason and Jessica Ensley’s students soon will benefit from more movement-friendly classroom equipment. Mason and Ensley got a $2,000 grant from the Unsung Heroes program of Voya Financial, a provider of retirement plans for educators.

Mason, a teacher of 19 years, is in her fourth year of teaching at Marion schools. Ensley, a teacher of 18 years, is in her ninth year at Marion.

They are the only winners in Kansas.

“We want to transform our classroom into action-based learning,” Mason said. “Young children are full of energy and movement, and research shows that not all children learn the same way. We are focusing on the strength of children’s natural desires to move, and at the same time fire up the brain connections to enhance and retain learning.”

Before getting the grant, the teachers added fidget chair bands that allow children to move their legs and rocker chairs.

“They are a safe chair that allows that movement for kids who need that movement,” Mason said. “In my classroom, I’ve added hopscotch. We have wobble seats.”

Mason said she hoped the grant would help them add more movement.

“Some are small movements like the bouncy bands, and some will be larger movements,” she said. “We would like to be able to expand into adding movement tables. It goes into cardiovascular equipment.”

When Mason applied for the grant, one application applied for $2,000, $5,000, $10,000, and $20,000 grant levels. Larger grants will be announced later.

“We want to add recumbent bikes that are kid size,” she said. “We want kids to have that movement and be able to learn at the same time. We really want to focus on what kids naturally do and take learning to that next level.”

Mason said she learned about the grant at a workshop last spring.

“I would encourage any teachers to look into grants to encourage projects they have a dream for, and just try,” she said.

Voya spokesman Mary Beth Conklin said Mason and Ensley’s initiatives will help students with attention deficit disorder, autism or sensory challenges and those who have experienced trauma.

“Mason and Ensley are among only 50 winners in the nation to receive the $2,000 award to help fund and bring their program to life,” Conklin said. “In addition, they will now compete with other finalists for one of the top three prizes — an additional $5,000, $10,000 or $25,000 from Voya Financial.”

Marion Elementary has a third kindergarten class taught by Katie Rahe.

Last modified Sept. 15, 2022

 

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