Fidget spinners used as teaching tool in Waterville classroom

Published: May. 24, 2017 at 5:53 PM EDT
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Fidget spinners are the latest craze for young people, but they were originally created for anxiety, autism and helping people focus. They come in all shapes and sizes.The spinners have been banned in some schools, but other schools are allowing them in class.

Fidget spinners have been around since the 1990s. Right now they are one of the "it" items for a lot of school age children. In Waterville, they're using them to help teach some important classroom lessons.

This may look like any other classroom, but take a closer look and you'll see that fidget spinners are everywhere in this fourth grade math class. Student Cora Gierhart is a big fan ,"Math is really fun anyway, but this makes it a lot better!"

Jamie Hollinger is the Principal at Waterville Primary School,"We look at the spinners as an opportunity to hook our students, and get them engaged and excited about what could be looked at as otherwise dry material. The spinners are an opportunity for us to bring contemporary culture and relevancy into our teaching. "

The gadgets provide an opportunity to help teach things like critical thinking skills, writing, analytics and math, "Do you realize you're learning when you do this? Sometimes I do. It's just a lot of fun to use the spinners to learn."

In addition to all the math behind these lessons, the students have even learned a history lesson. Cora told us why the spinners were first used,"A fidget spinner is something that was made for people with anxiety and trouble focusing. What you do is spin it and it looks cool and it's fun to play with."

But this is much more than play.The students are creating and designing their own spinners with a 3D printer. Lori Williams is the Dean of Students. She says the printer has opened up a whole new world of learning for the kids and they're hoping to buy more in the future,"It really is just a big hot glue gun. It comes out as a solid, then comes through as a liquid and cools immediately. Our printer uses a filament that truly allows the kids to create anything they can imagine.We've used it for a lot more than the fidget spinners"

Part of the creation process is finding a way to come up with the fastest fidget. Student Brode Sweet demonstrated the aerodynamics behind his custom spinner,"Because there's a lot of holes the air won't get stuck in the holes and it moves through it and it keeps spinning."

Williams says in the middle of all that spinning is a lot of learning, "I love seeing the technology in action that the district, the parents and the school have all embraced . To then see the students thrive with the technology and become so passionate about it is rewarding. This group of fourth grade students is taking 5th grade math. They are remarkable and engaged no matter what you put in front of them, but they are even more engaged when you add this technology to the mix."

Principal Hollinger says it's amazing to see the important classroom and life lessons all coming from a fidget spinner, "The goal of every educator is to have students excited about life-long learning and finding learning in everyday things.that's exactly what is happening here."