Core curriculum

With a few chairs, Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial partners with a Newaygo school to expand educational opportunities, promote student wellness.
Students at the Newaygo Middle School test out the ergonomic balance ball chairs that will help transform their library into an Entrepreneurship Technology Cyber Café. From left: Brianna Grugett, Trevir Kral, Bruce Grugett and Sofia Briggs. (For Spectrum Health Beat)
Students at the Newaygo Middle School test out the ergonomic balance ball chairs that will help transform their library into an Entrepreneurship Technology Cyber Café. From left: Brianna Grugett, Trevir Kral, Bruce Grugett and Sofia Briggs. (For Spectrum Health Beat)

Good seats could help Newaygo Middle Schools students put their best foot forward in the 21st century economy—and Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is playing a key role.

Gerber Memorial is collaborating with Newaygo Middle School by donating furniture that can help transform the school’s library into a dynamic space and help more students achieve their higher education goals. The 10 ergonomic balance ball chairs, designed to improve back health and overall health and comfort, were delivered to the school in June as part of the effort to revamp the library into an Entrepreneurship Technology Cyber Café.

“One way we can promote good health in our community is to help strengthen educational opportunities and Gerber Memorial’s partnership with Newaygo Middle School is a critical step in that direction,” said Shelly Johnson, Gerber Memorial chief community outreach officer for community health and wellness. “We applaud Newaygo Middle School for recognizing a way to strengthen educational opportunities for students in Newaygo and building partnerships that make this project a reality.”

“Newaygo Middle School is grateful to Gerber Memorial for its generosity and for being a true community partner,” said Jaime Harkness, Entrepreneurship Technology Cyber Café coordinator. “Our cyber café will turn the library, which was a passive warehouse, into an active community, learning, study and tech center. Our students can learn about college, skilled trades and hone technical skills that can increase their chances to compete for good-paying jobs—all in a user-friendly, comfortable and healthy environment.”

Newaygo Middle School projects the cyber café could increase library usage by students and teachers by 40 percent. Harkness said the café could also boost critical thinking, communication and collaboration skills, and creativity among students who use it. In the enhanced learning environment, students are also more likely to master core subjects and 21st century topics, such as economics, business and entrepreneurial literacy, among others.

“The chairs are really comfortable and they make me want to come to the library to study,” said ninth-grader Quinn Hefferen Nordlund, who wants to be a neurosurgeon.

For parent Corinne Toth, who works at the Newaygo County RESA, the chairs are more than just a cosmetic addition to the Cyber Café.

“From an ergonomic standpoint, the chairs will help them understand how important good ergonomics is,” said Toth, whose children Glenn and Sam are in the seventh and ninth grades, respectively. “Good ergonomics is important for health and it can help get work done.”

Without good posture, students are more susceptible to psychosocial stress, inadequate physical fitness and other health conditions.

Ethel Lobrigas
Physical therapist at Tamarac, The Center for Health and Well-Being

The ergonomic ball chairs are designed to promote good posture—and that’s critical because poor posture is one of the biggest yet underappreciated risk factors for back pain among students, said Mary (Ethel) Lobrigas, a physical therapist at Tamarac, The Center for Health and Well-Being, a member of Spectrum Health.

“Without good posture, students are more susceptible to psychosocial stress, inadequate physical fitness and other health conditions,” Lobrigas said.

Lobrigas said the ball chairs facilitate movement while sitting, prompting users to engage their core muscles. With the ergonomic balls at Newaygo Middle School, students can change a static position into a dynamic one, thus improving their posture.

For Harkness, the revamped space and the cyber café could potentially serve the community beyond the middle school’s walls: She believes the café could also become a community hub that offers services beneficial to adults.

The cyber café idea was the brainchild of ninth-grader Trevir Kral. Drawn to design and metalwork, Kral has ambitions of becoming a welder and learning the trade at Newaygo County’s tech center, which is working on building the coffee bar for the cafe.

“I wanted to go to the Career Tech Center, so I thought maybe they could make the coffee bar,” Kral said. “My idea was that it be metal, so it could be sturdy.”

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