FitDesks Come to Medary Elementary in Brookings

BROOKINGS, S.D. – It’s a sign of spring, seeing more cyclists out and about. However, students at an elementary school in Brookings have been hitting the pedals all winter long.

It’s a unique way to help them do better and feel better at school.

“One of the questions I usually ask our classroom teachers is ‘If you could an ideal classroom, what would it look like?’ Who wouldn’t want to come to school and get on a bike and start riding,” said Medary Elementary Principal Jessica Enderson.

Biking at school, it sounds too good to be true but at Medary Elementary in Brookings, dreams have become a reality. The school bought two FitDesks, a combination of a desk and a bike, in August, as an experiment to see how they could help students learn.

This all stemmed from third-grade teacher Lara Langelet, who researched the best ways to help students with ADHD learn. But the idea grew bigger, and the goal became benefitting all students, through exercise.

“With exercise, you can get enough oxygen running through your brain to open up all the neuropathways so that that student at that time can really focus on whatever activity they’re doing,” said Langelet.

“I like to do it at math time because math time for me is really hard. So peddling helps me focus on it,” said third-grader Madeline Enderson.

The experiment went so well that Langelet wrote a grant request to the TransCanada Charitable Foundation, she won the funding, and bought 19 more bikes. There’s now at least one bike in every classroom.

Not only has the school seen improvements in cognitive performance, everyone just seems to get along better.

“The teacher can make a suggestion of ‘Hey, how about you go on the FitDesk for awhile?’ and it’s much less confrontational. Students are having a much more positive relationship then with the teacher,” said Brookings School District Superintendent Klint Willert.

“Personalities clash but it’s still not as difficult to form a relationship. Once you have that relationship, the student is willing to actually try and work hard,” said Langelet.

Teachers say this type of learning is a little outside the box, but if it’s helping students, that’s all that matters.

“We’re trying to find tools and resources that help all of our kids achieve and be successful and if this is just one more tool in the toolbox, that’s great,” said Superintendent Willert.

Superintendent Willert says he thinks every school could benefit from the FitDesks and he hopes to see more of them pop up in other school districts.

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