Can the Chair Your Child Sits in Improve His or Her Grades?

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There's something a little unusual about the fifth grade classroom in Webberville where Kyle Oesterle and his classmates are taking a spelling test.

"Careful," their teacher, Philip Wilson says. "Careful. You must be careful walking down the street."

It's the chair Kyle's sitting in.

"You can rock back and forth in it," he said.

And it's the desk Kyle's sitting at -- it can be raised or lowered and it can either lay flat or tilt to 16 degrees.

The ergonomic chairs and desks had to be imported from Germany. Superintendent William Skilling says they have more to offer than a sleek modern appearance.

Those tilting desks, for example, mean kids don't have to lean over to read or write.

"By keeping a straight back your circulatory and respiratory system works more efficiently and that's why the kids become less tired," Skilling told News 10.

And what about those chairs? Can it actually help to have them wheeling around and rocking back and forth at their desks? Skilling says "yes."

"For a teacher in an elementary classroom to say sit still and be quiet doesn't make sense when their bodies are crying out for movement," he said. "Our bodies need it for proper development."

But if other mid-Michigan schools want to put their students in these chairs, they have to be ready to pay up. They can cost up to five times as much as a standard setup.

"The return on the investment is from studies done in Germany," Skilling said.

In those studies, students had 20 percent greater achievement just by having ergonomic chairs. The authors are conducting similar research in Chicago to see if it results in similar gains.

It's why Skilling is slowly putting the chairs wherever he can in his district, usually by replacing the oldest ones.

The new ones may be more expensive, but if the kids who are using them are any indication...

"I actually pay attention more," Kyle said.

...They're more than just fun to play with.

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