A Raleigh middle school teacher’s efforts to keep her fidgety students focused in class by putting bike pedals underneath their desks has spawned international attention.
Media outlets such as CBS News and BBC News have interviewed Bethany Lambeth about how grades have gone up and discipline problems have dropped since her students at Martin Middle School in Raleigh began pedaling their way through math class. Lambeth’s idea has caused educators to take notice of whether combining learning and exercise is the right approach to channel students’ energy.
“I knew it would be a local story,” Lambeth said in an interview Wednesday. “But I love the fact that it has gone like wildfire through our country and internationally because of what it can do for our students. I have noticed an immediate success with them.”
Lambeth is an intervention math teacher, meaning she works with students who need extra help. She noticed how many of her students were having a hard time keeping their concentration as they tapped their feet and pencils, got up out of their seats and touched other classmates.
Lambeth said the problem wasn’t that her students were trying to misbehave. She said she realized it was because of all the pent-up energy inside her pre-teen and teenage students.
While researching how to deal with the problem, Lambeth read about how an out-of-state elementary school had purchased DeskCycles, a device placed under a desk that people can pedal like they were on a bicycle.
Since each DeskCycle costs $179 with a two-year warranty, Lambeth applied for a grant from the Wake County school system’s 4C Fund. The fund, which is paid for by donations and not taxpayer dollars, supports projects that promote collaboration, communication, creativity and critical thinking.
The 4C Fund awarded nearly $125,000 this year, including $1,802 for Lambeth to purchase 10 DeskCycles, $3,500 for an after-school robotics club at Salem Middle School and $9,500 for Middle Creek High School students to turn trash into objects such as musical instruments and sculptures.
The DeskCycles arrived in April. It didn’t take long for Lambeth to see positive results.
“They were able to be engaged in class,” Lambeth said. “They were excited to come to math class. They were having fun doing something different and were able to have their work done at the same time.”
Students aren’t required to use the DeskCycles, but most find themselves noiselessly pedaling during at least part of the class. Each device records how fast and how far students are going and how many calories they’re burning.
Quinn Spear, 14, an eighth-grade student, said he’s pedaled as much as 13.5 miles in a 45-minute class.
“I used to tap and talk a lot and do other stuff,” Quinn said. “But the DeskCycle, it calms me down. I’m really energetic. It gets my energy out.”
The attention from the DeskCycles has made Lambeth’s students celebrities at the school.
“It’s also really cool because people ask you about it every day,” said Sofia Fedele, 13, an eighth-grade student. “I have an exercise bike under my desk in my math class.”
In addition to the media, Lambeth and her principal, Lacey Peckham, have been contacted by educators in Wake County and across the world. Peckham said some Martin teachers are hoping to ask the PTA to fund some DeskCycles for their classrooms.
“Bethany is very innovative so she was willing to try it and do the legwork to see if it worked,” Peckham said. “Now that we’re seeing positive results, definitely other people want to get involved.”