Assignment: Education - Thinking Tool Boxes

A La Crosse Elementary School Pilots a New Program

LA CROSSE, Wis. -- A lot is happening in Mr. Scherer's 2nd grade class at North Woods International School.

During the students' independent learning time, they are busy moving from task-to-task which can be a little loud and distracting for some students.

"Some people kind of bug you, and you kind of get involved. And they kind of get you in trouble sometimes," said Victor Heintz, North Woods International School second grader.

Victor says that situations like this make it hard for him to concentrate, but that's changed since the "thinking tool box" was introduced into his classroom this Spring.

"Before that it was very hard to keep the students attention and really keep them engaged," said Bryant Scherer, North Woods International School second grade teacher. "When they're working independently, they like to just get up and wander around. Whereas now they pretty much stay in one spot, and they're working the whole time."

That's because now the students have several different sensory tools to help them burn energy and regulate their nervous systems which is leading to improved focus in the classroom.


"My favorite one is this one because it helps you stay in one place and not move that much," said Heintz.

"It's kind of like a weighted vest," said Scherer. "They're kind of weighted objects. They kind of hold you down and keep you calm. So that they can focus more when they're working."

The students can also choose from headphones which cancels out some of the sounds or fidgets which are hand tools to keep their hands busy. But Mr. Scherer says one of the most popular tools are the wiggle seats.

"If you look around, the purple right there, those are one of the wiggle seats," said Scherer. "So, he's just kind of sitting in it right now, but when he needs to take a break and just kind of move around, it keeps him working. It keeps him in his spot but lets him move."

"The whole concept behind this is to have tools in the classroom that promote thinking and promote self-regulation; the ability to stay alert, stay engaged in class," said Dana Young, North Woods International School occupational therapist.

Young believes the increased need for these tools in the classroom boils down to too much screen time and not enough active play.

"Our bodies are meant to move and it seems like there are more kids that are having a hard time with that self regulation," said Young. "And that is a skill that needs to be learned."

These sensory tools are helping to show students what they need to do with their bodies to stay focused and on-task in the classroom.

"If you think about your environment, some kids are sensitive to and are easily distracted by the noises around them," said Young. "Some actually function better with the noise. Some of us learn better by doing and moving. And some of us just like to read it and process is that way."

And because of the thinking tool box, students in Mr. Scherer's 2nd grade class get to discover how they learn best.

"I'm glad it's in here becasue a lot of people need to concentrate a lot sometimes," said Heintz.

"As adults, we can go take a walk when we need to, drink a cup of coffee, chew gum. That allows us to do what we need to do and stay engaged in the tasks that we need to do," said Young. "And these kids aren't any different."

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