Why Pedaling Desks Might Be the Best Thing to Happen to Middle School Classrooms

Image Source: Paul Cory, Wake County Public School System
Image Source: Paul Cory, Wake County Public School System

Treadmill desks, standing desks, yoga ball desk chairs … there are many ways that you can change up the normal desk and chair in a little cubicle to help with focus and burn more calories. And thanks to one teacher, middle school students now have a new option as well.

Students at Martin Middle School in Raleigh, North Carolina, are pedaling through class, and it’s improving both their concentration and quality of work. And they have Bethany Lambeth to thank for it.

Lambeth teaches at Martin Middle School, and it was her idea to introduce the Desk Cycles to her students. She had the idea to give students more exercise after switching from teaching elementary school to middle school and seeing the decrease in concentration as a result of not having recess.

“When I switched to teaching middle school, I noticed that my students had a harder time focusing. It was not that my students were trying to fidget, they just had a lot of pent up energy,” she tells Babble. “I was researching ways to allow my students to move around in the room, but not take away from instructional time. Standing desks and treadmill desks are becoming more popular in the workplace, so that inspired me to find a way to get something similar in my room. While doing research I had come across an article about a school that had bought one or two for their room and I thought it would be a neat idea to try to implement with a class set. I am so glad that I did!”

Image Source: Paul Cory, Wake County Public School System
Image Source: Paul Cory, Wake County Public School System

It was a great idea, but the next challenge was to find the funding, because at $160 a pop, the Desk Cycles would be very expensive for every student in the class. Luckily, their school had the opportunity to apply for a $2,000 grant from 4C for Children, a non-profit organization that strives to help child care providers prepare our youth for the future. The four C’s represent creativity, collaboration, communication, and critical thinking, and Lambeth proposed that the pedaling desks would combine all four.

“My justification was that through movement my students will be able to gain more focus, which would in turn help them to think more critically and be more creative with their work,” Lambeth told CBS News. “As students are able to focus more, they are able to gain a deeper understanding of the content, which in turn allows them to collaborate with others more effectively and communicate their thoughts more clearly.”

She applied for the grant in mid-winter, and secured the funding by March. “The Desk Cycles were on Amazon Prime, so I was able to get them to my room and installed fairly quickly,” she tells Babble. “My students did not know that I had received a grant for the pedals and were ecstatic when they saw them for the first time.”

Since bringing the machines into the classroom in April (with three months worth of students using them before summer break), she’s seen vast improvements in all students, both with and without disabilities.

“I have noticed an increase in the quality and the quantity of student work,” Lambeth told CBS News. “Last year I noticed an average of a 50 percent decrease in the amount of missing work for my struggling students.”

At first, she didn’t tell the students anything about the goal of improving their focus (a smart move, really). But it helped them nonetheless. “They took to them almost immediately,” she tells Babble. “I did not tell them that they were primarily to improve their focus; within the first week they were telling me that they felt like they could focus more. I could not have been more pleased.”

Lambeth says that most of her students look forward to having the pedals when they come into her class, but students also don’t have to use the pedaling machines if they don’t want to. “I have a few students throughout the day that do not enjoy using the pedals,” she says. “I have three desks in my room without pedals and they can choose to sit at those seats. I also change seats often so that students who want to use the pedals can all get a chance.”

Although they’ve only had a few months of use, the Desk Cycles have proven to help students so far, and Lambeth says they’d love to bring more into the rest of the school. “My school would love to bring more pedals into the building, but we are looking for more funding.”

After their success, I think I might try the pedaling desk as well. Maybe that could replace spin class, too? Maybe?

h/t: CBS News

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