Originally published Feb. 18, 2018 in The Daily Times.
By Amy Beth Miller
Leesa Taylor may be the only teacher who encourages students to use fidget spinners in her class.
While educators across the nation have banned the small spinning toys in classrooms and entire schools, Taylor bought several herself so students could use them in her physical education classes at Prospect and Rockford Elementary Schools.
In a classroom, the three-armed top with a weighted central disk can be a distraction or even dangerous, if students lose control while attempting a trick.
Taylor, however, essentially is using them as timers in a fun twist to encourage students to raise their heart rates during American Heart Month.
Her Fidget Spinner Challenge includes 11 stations, where students start the toy rotating on the floor and then count how many times they can complete an activity before it stops.
“Have fun today and exercise your heart,” Taylor told students before giving them a choice of activities this week.
While the fidget spinner whirls, students can build strength while tossing an 8-pound medicine ball back and forth or hone hand-eye coordination by bouncing a badminton shuttlecock on a racquet, for example.
Set a timer and tell students to hold a wall sit or perform pushups until it beeps and they might groan. Pit them against a spinning top and it becomes a fun challenge against the timer, their friends and their own record.
During a class Wednesday at Prospect Elementary School, third-graders kept running up to Taylor to announce their results and receive a high-five from the teacher, or to check the current record to beat, such as how many times a student had bounced a basketball before the spinner stopped.
Students could choose their own activity or spin an exercise cube that would tell them what to do across the length of the gym, such as gallop, slide, bear crawl, crab walk or grapevine.
“Sometimes in PE they discover a new skill they want to do,” Taylor said. For example, a student who runs hurdles during a challenge like this in elementary school may decide to run track later.
“They discover how strong they are,” she said.
Several activities required no equipment, so students can go home, set their own toy spinning and see how many jumping jacks or sit ups they can do.
“They decide how fast or slow they want to spin it,” Prospect Principal John Parham noted, so students can do their own personal best.
“I want PE to be the best part of the day,” Taylor said.
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