Proving that cycling and social studies are a healthy mix, Granby Elementary School teacher Tina Swearengin is making use of bike desks to help fifth-graders stay focused and fit.

Proving that cycling and social studies are a healthy mix, Granby Elementary School teacher Tina Swearengin is making use of bike desks to help fifth-graders stay focused and fit.

She organized a campaign at donorschoose.org, raising $1,800 to buy five cycling workstations for her social studies classroom. Students helped to put the bike desks together Nov. 2 and rode a total of 127 miles the first day.

"Being an intermediate teacher, I can recognize and empathize with the reality of sitting still and engaged for 80-minute class periods," Swearengin said. "My teaching partners, principal and I had many discussions on how to best help kids stay focused during class periods.

"I had read several articles discussing the benefits of riding a stationary bike while reading and studying," she said. "After speaking with my principal, we decided to write a grant on DonorsChoose."

Granby's principal is Patti Schlaegel.

Putting a spin on social studies is a hit with Swearengin's fifth-grade students.

Jackson Jones said he likes exercising and working at the same time.

"Being able to ride helps me work faster than when I sit at my (regular) desk," he said.

Vera Hsu likes to turn the knobs and adjust the resistance.

"I like that I can monitor how many calories I have burned while riding and doing my school work," she said.

Karina Sandoval said the bikes help her focus on class work.

"You can pedal for 20 minutes and it is enough time to keep you from getting distracted," she said.

Swearengin said the students are able to have at least one 20-minute block per day to use the bike desks.

"The bikes are very quiet, so the other students in the class are able to stay focused on their work while others ride," she said. "Students who are quite active are being provided with the opportunity to use some of their energy while learning."

She said students love the bikes.

"While working on the bikes, students are more focused and involved in their learning," she said. "When they finish riding, they are more refreshed and are able to easily transition back to working at their seats."

The increased activity during the day helps to stimulate brain activity, Swearengin said.

"Students are slowly building the stamina needed to ride a stationary bike for a short period of time," she said.

She said a few other Worthington teachers told her they would love to add bicycles to their classrooms.

"We would like to invest in more bikes to add to our fifth-grade classrooms," she said. "The benefits of the bikes are well worth the extra effort of finding the funding."

In the grant she wrote for DonorsChoose, she quoted Tom Hunter, from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, who said, "Sitting still is overrated. It makes sense for the opera or for meditating, but in most classrooms and child care centers, it's given far more honor than it deserves. Children need to move."

Swearengin was this year's recipient of Worthington's Gary Smith Compassionate Teaching Award.