IPS implements active-based learning, hopes for better test scores

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Two Indianapolis Public Schools are taking a new approach to education this year.

Super School 19 and James Whitcomb Riley School 43 implemented “active-based learning.”

JW Riley is the first school in the district that completely outfitted every single classroom with new furniture. Teachers got to pick out what kind of seating and tools they wanted.

CBS4 visited Jonathan Hatfield’s kindergarten class. He offers bicycle desks where kids can pedal while they work, bounce seats, swivel chairs and topsy-turvy stools so that the kids can wiggle while they learn.

All of the furniture is meant to get kids moving.

“The first thing I’m thinking of are those fidget spinners,” laughed reporter Angela Brauer.

Exactly,” Hatfield said. “The whole fidget spinners, it just takes it using their whole body. With this, they’re moving their legs.”

While inside Hatfield’s classroom, kids got up and stretched at the yoga station when they were done with their worksheets.

“The data just over last week,” Hatfield pointed out, “we talked about five letters and their five sounds. They know their five letters and their five sounds.”

Hatfield said his students are retaining more information.

“The normal seats, they were just…they were in and out of it. This year, they want to come to school. They want to learn,” Hatfield said.

Principal Bakari Posey pitched active-based learning in 2017. He asked the district for its support.

“We were looking for a model to implement to improve engagement in classrooms. We wanted to improve student engagement and then also improve student behavior,” he explained. “What we found through research is that implementing more action and more active activities in the classroom helps.”

IPS spent $240,000 from its capital project fund to make Posey’s dream come true.

“My vision was to have a mini lab in every single classroom,” he explained.

Posey was adamant that the new approach seems to be working so far.

“We’ve seen improved behavior, less of those displaced activity action behaviors that they need to move,” he said.

He explained that kids used to have displaced energy. When students couldn’t sit still anymore, they would go bother their classmates or act out. Now, they’re using their energy in other ways. Posey said fewer students are getting in trouble. Classes seem to be moving at a quicker pace.

“They’re getting through more content at this point of the school year than they did at this time last year,” Posey said.

Teachers are also taking advantage of the new curriculum. They attended training and have implemented new interactive lessons.

“You get up, you walk around your classroom, you don’t touch anyone, you don’t touch anything then you can use it to teach odd and even numbers. Get with a pair. Get with three. What do you notice?” Posey explained.

Because JW Riley School 43 has only been in session for a couple weeks, they don’t yet have enough data to prove active-based learning is affecting test scores. Based on nationwide statistics, though, Posey is hopeful.

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