“Quit moving around. You need to sit down.”
Who hasn’t heard those words at some point in their life? Often, memories of that go back to childhood, when excitable young learners feel the need to burn off some energy.
However, maybe it’s not so much about burning off energy; rather, it’s the need to energize.
At New Morning School in Plymouth, MI., the idea of starting the day off with organized movement is encouraged at all levels. Studies have shown that students prompted to move and get active are much more ready to focus on schoolwork, have better memory retention and have faster cognitive processing.
Also, students who sit for extended periods don’t experience the same levels of increased blood flow to the brain as those who incorporate movement. Those with increased blood flow are much more able to be attentive and to retain information.
The findings from a 2011 Duke University study back this up and also shows the way it wires young people for future performance. Looking at more than 1,000 children in New Zealand over the course of eight years, the subjects were monitored to track the ability to stay focused and attentive. As adults, it was found these subjects who were better able to pay attention as youngsters wound up in better shape in terms of not only health, but finances. Having self-control and attention to detail created fewer money and health problems that those who were unable to develop focused thinking at a younger age.
Making time to become active for young people
It’s especially important to build movement and activity into the daily schedule. That’s because today’s society has much greater access to technology — ranging from computers to hand-held technology and everything within. And an interest in technology, no matter how well-intentioned, can often take time away that was previously spent on outdoor and physical activities.
Experts have expressed the need for children to have at least an hour of activity each day. New Morning School teachers provide time to allow students to get a good jump on that time needed for movement.
The results they see are quite apparent. Kindergarten and elementary students often start their day with outside time or interactive video presentations promoting movement through music. Middle school students also are encouraged to move, often starting the day out with time in the gymnasium. Throughout the day, it’s common to see students up and moving.
Elaine Kennedy, Head of School for New Morning, referred to a Harvard study that reinforces the need for movement — and the earlier in the day, the better.
“When there is aerobic activity before academics, there are one-and-a-half times improvement in attention, memory and mood restoration,” she said.
Adults should consider this, too. Think of it as the same concept as why employers offer vacation time. If workers never get a break, they lose their physical and mental edge. If time to recharge (or charge up) is introduced, there’s a direct correlation between that and the ability to work at peak performance.
Occasionally, our teachers notice their classrooms having an overall feeling of anxiety or lethargy. In these moments, they have incorporated extra movement time for a short period, perhaps 15 minutes or 20 minutes. That gives the students enough time to re-calibrate their minds and bodies to get in a better state for learning.