At Juban Parc Elementary School, desks are totally last year. 

Trending this school session? Bouncy balls, wobbly stools, floor cushions and a futon.

The 471-student primary school in Denham Springs is trying something new as they attempt to teach restless kids what they need to know.

Instead of rows of desks with hard-backed chairs, classrooms are filled with tables of different heights, some low enough for kids to sit on cushions and others high enough for a student to stand. Students can pick the chair and table that's most comfortable for them. 

Haylee Rincon, 9, prefers the bouncy ball or wobbly stool, because bouncing gives her more energy to work. Laila Bercy, also 9, would rather a bar stool, where she can get a good view of the lesson in arithmetic. 

Teachers and students say the program for grades 1 through 5 is helping kids stay focused and take ownership over their learning. 

"It changed out classroom culture," said Sarah McRary, the fourth grade teacher who first implemented the seating at Juban Parc. "This is not my room. This is their room. So, when they walk in the door and see seats that were specifically picked for them with them in mind, it communicates something to them that I can say over and over again, but they can see it. 'This place is for me.' "

Flexible seating started at the school last year when McRary, a fourth grade teacher, saw pictures of similar setups from teachers in other parts of the country on social media. Principal Shanna Steed agreed to give it a try and used some extra school and donor dollars to buy new seats for all of the grade 4 classrooms.

The program has since expanded to all grades at the school except kindergarten.

Juban Parc Elementary is one of a few schools in the parish, including Springfield Middle School, Grays Creek Elementary and Southside Elementary, experimenting with the new setup, according to Steed. 

McRary said it required a change in mindset about what it means for kids to be focused on their studies. 

"When you see kids at school, in TV or the movies, they're sitting in rows. They're sitting at desks, their eyes are forward and they're still," she said.

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But while that's the picture everyone has of what a focused classroom is, McRary said, it does not always make for an effective learning environment.

"Giving them that space and room to move is needed to really help them focus on what we're really doing in here, which is learning," she said. "I will never go back to traditional seating, never."

After finding success with the fourth graders, Steed said, she spent about $8,000 expanded the program to first grade and up. She said kindergartners will get new seating options later this year.

Third grade teacher Brandy Melancon noted that the new system has been especially good for kids with ADHD, who no longer stand out as much if they're moving around during class. 

One of the best indications the system is working is when a student comes to her after a few months and asks if he or she could just sit on a stool. 

"We want the kids to start accepting themselves and what's best for them and their learning style," she said. 

Not everything has been perfect, and teachers have had to set some guidelines about how students can sit. 

McRary said she first let students pick new seats each day, but it was just taking up too much time from the school period. Now they choose a table once a week. Kids who bounce enough to disturb their neighbors or fall off their chairs can also get reprimanded.

The new seating has been a hit with the kids, who each have their own preferences. 

Logan Wollfarth, 10, who was sitting on his knees aboard a bouncy ball, said he thinks the seating is a "good way to focus."

"I feel like it's better than chairs," he said.


Follow Caroline Grueskin on Twitter, @cgrueskin.