Sensory Objects · Teaching

Busy Bars

Okay, guys. This bad boy right here is the reason I’ve been so sporadic about posting for the last year.

I’ve been completing my 63 page  thesis (that’s right, sixty-three pages!!!) for my M.Ed degree in Curriculum and Instruction and have pretty much been MIA for the past year and a half while I went through the entirety of the program. My final project focused on sensory objects in the classroom, i.e. fidget objects for students with special needs.

Can I just say how glorious it feels to have my masters done now?!?

I had decided what I wanted to do my research project on a little less than a year ago when I saw a video on Facebook about teachers at Stuart A. Roosa Elementary School in Claremore, Oklahoma.

The video can be found here.

I fell in love with the idea of busy bars and decided to give it a try for my own research project with my third graders. These bars are attached to the front desk legs and the kids can place their feet on them and swing them.

Here’s the supplies that my project required:

  • ½ inch PVC Pipe
  • ½ inch PVC Pipe Elbow Joint (2 per desk)
  • ¼” x 3″ Carriage Bolts (2 per desk)
  • ¼” – 20 Stop Nuts (2 per desk)
  •  6 – 32 x 1 – ¼ Machine Screw (4)
  •  6 – 32 Machine Screw Nut (4)
  • Duct Tape
  • PVC Pipe Cutter
  • Drill bits for the above screw sizes

Step One: 

Legs: Measure from the underside of the desk to the floor and subtract 7 inches. That will be the length of both legs.

Footrest: Measure the distance between the legs of the desk where you will be attaching the Busy Bar and subtract 5 inches. That will be the length of your footrest. Cut 2 additional pieces at ¾ inch. These will be your “washers.”

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These are the washers cut and paired together for each desk. 

Step Two: 

After you have connected the legs to the footrest you will need to drill holes into the top of each legs. These will be used to connected the Busy Bar to the desk. I measure 2 ½ inches down and mark the spot. You can do this part before connecting all the parts if you want. Use a drill bit that will fit your ¼ x 3 carriage bolts. The holes will need to face in when it is lying on a flat surface so that it will be able to connect with the desk legs.

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Busy bar pre-installation

Step Three:

First, Make sure your PVC pipes are pushed into the elbow joints as far as you can. Then take your drill and your smaller drill bit and drill holes to secure the leg and footrests to the elbow joints. Then take 4 small screws and screw them in and secure them with the matching nut. Next, measure 4 inches down the front leg from the bottom of the desk. You will want the holes to be on the side of the desk leg. Mark the spot and drill.

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Chris being a trooper and helping me install busy bars ALL DAY.

Step Four: 

First, put your carriage bolts in both legs of the desk. You want the flat side on the outside of the leg so that no one scrapes themselves. Next, add the ¾ inch “washer” piece we cut back in Step One. Then, add the busy bar itself. Lastly, secure everything with a stop nut (FYI, once you take the stop nut off, it will not secure again).

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Now, for the most important part of my study! You’re probably wondering what kind of results I gathered from this project, and why this post even matters.

Let me just tell you that I was FLOORED at the results brought in from this study.

I took detailed observations and tracked each child’s academic progress extensively for two weeks prior to the installation of each busy bar. After they were installed, I did the same thing-observations, entering assignment and assessment data in a spreadsheet, and graphing their progress.

First of all, I saw a stark difference in my observations before the busy bars and after they were put to use. I observed obvious differences in individual’s behavior. I had less wandering around the classroom, fidgeting, and talking with neighbors when they should be working. I also saw less fits from a couple of my students, and much more on-task behavior.

The next portion of my study were the academic differences. My students’ scores skyrocketed after they started to use the busy bars. They were able to sit at their desks and focus for much longer periods of time and listen more attentively, which was portrayed within their assessments. The changes in the data were phenomenal!

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The moral of this long-winded story: use sensory objects in your classroom! Not only do they help your special needs students, but they are beneficial for each and every child in your classroom. The differences in behavior and academic performance are too vast to ignore! Make a difference in your kid’s lives by giving them a constructive outlet.

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