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Time to Get Moving

Posted October 27, 2022 in Articles

Time to Get Moving

Today, our society is more sedentary than ever. This is especially problematic during the school year, when the average American student spends more than seven hours a day at a desk. For those with learning differences, it can be a challenge to simply sit still for that long—let alone focus and retain a lesson. The solution is obvious: kids need to get up, and move.

Study after study links physical movement to improved learning outcomes. Research shows when teachers integrate kinesthetic activities into their classrooms, stress is eased, working memory is enhanced, and their students’ overall ability to learn is optimized. Scientists believe this is because the part of the brain that controls movement is also responsible for processing new information. When the two activities are combined, the brain adapts by increasing the number of neurons in that area, and over time, this makes learning more efficient. Additionally, physical activity has been shown to stimulate the release of epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline) making students more alert.

Time to Get Moving

The evidence of this positive correlation holds up no matter the content area or age of the learner, and it’s especially true for students with language- and attention-based learning differences: dyslexia, dysgraphia, dyscalculia, and ADHD.

At Lawrence School, we prioritize movement in our classrooms. In fact, it’s quite common for students to toss a ball while practicing sight words, role play historical scenes during social studies, zig-zag the room as part of a math fact game, or even spend a class period traveling through a series of science stations. Mindfulness exercises, yoga breaks, outdoor walks, flexible seating, and short dance sessions are other ways our faculty take their lessons from listless to lively.

While all of our teachers are exceptionally adept at integrating movement, physical education classes are an irreplaceable part of our student experience (not to mention an all-around favorite).

We caught up with two of our on-campus movement experts: Upper School Phys Ed Teacher John Thompson and his Lower School counterpart Karli Chiappone, who were happy to share their thoughts on the benefits of physical activity during the school day and beyond.

Time to Get Moving

Thompson began his Lawrence career over a decade ago in an academic classroom. Now a phys ed teacher, he tells us the goals and objectives of his classes actually stretch much farther than simple exercise.

“Gym class is so much more than a fun school day break. I follow a highly-structured curriculum and have designed my lessons to explore a range of activities that encourage physical fitness, develop motor skills, teach sportsmanship, boost self-efficacy, and enhance emotional intelligence,” said Thompson.

He stresses the benefits of his time with students continue on long after they leave the gymnasium.

“After phys ed, fellow teachers have told me our students have an easier time focusing on material, they also appear more relaxed and less stressed. This is a huge deal because so many of today’s teenagers struggle with anxiety. Having the ability to release some of those negative feelings can really make a big difference in a kid's outlook and overall feelings toward school.”

Chiappone, in her second year on staff, echoed this sentiment, adding that there are many social and interpersonal skills also being perfected in phys ed class.

“Even a simple game of tag or a round in the gaga ball pit involves a lot of active and experiential learning. Students need to listen to directions, cooperate with others, and put their problem-solving skills into action. They also learn sportsmanship, fairness, and how to deal with a loss or disappointment. Those are lessons that will stick with them for life and transfer directly into relationships with teachers and peers.” She tells us.

Both encourage parents to incorporate “brain breaks” as part of their children’s evening routine. Not only can physical activity make getting through homework easier, it can make family life more peaceful all around. So, next time your child is struggling to focus or check things off their list: go for a walk; play a game; vacuum the living room; or hold an impromptu dance party. They guarantee you’ll see a big difference. And don’t forget—parent participation is encouraged!

Time to Get Moving

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