Movement is what the human body is designed for.” ―
Why is it so common for children to be packed into desks all day, seated in front of a teacher? Bodies were designed for movement, and movement helps the brain work its magic!
Dr. JoAnn Deak has studied brains her whole life! A psychologist and author, she is especially interested in the brains of children and how we as adults can support children’s brain development for life and school success. She described the phenomenon of pooling blood in the lower body associated with sitting for long periods of time, depriving the brain of its sustenance. She recommends that students sit no longer than 20 minutes at a time to allow for maximum brain function.
In a past blog I began a discussion about classroom environments. A wise former business manager of mine, Debbie Ballough, reminded me that one of my interests as a principal had been not only the design of classrooms, but balancing my ideas for classrooms in the real world through financial support. How does one create a movement friendly environment with limited funds?
If movement is the goal, how do you work with what you have? Older children can help with rearranging the chairs if need be, children can stand and respond to music. Getting children up from their seats only requires a little ingenuity.
For three years I worked in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles. It was possible to drive by a bank in those days and see a thermometer with the numbers: 1-1-5!! Although our classroom was air conditioned, the window unit would often fail. Our bungalow with 30 sixth grade students turned into an oven. Those days would become yoga days! The children and I would move the desks around, creating a space for us to do standing yoga. This helped reset the calmness in the classroom, and allowed us to be able to create our plan for moving our learning to a shady corner of the yard until the air conditioner could be fixed.
When not challenged with freakish temperatures, a teacher could more easily create systems to periodically rearrange the desks to permit movement within lessons or between lessons, tailored to meet the needs of the age group. All we need is determination and creativity!
At another school I shared a kindergarten room, each of us teachers with our own classes half day. I was completing a unit on fairy tales, and eyed enviously the piles of wooden blocks stores in the shed behind our classroom, blocks that had been removed when the former teacher retired.
I waited until the morning teacher was out of the classroom for the day on a field trip. With the help of a wonderful custodian, I moved the boxes of blocks into the room, and stacked the chairs on the tables that we moved to the corner of the room. When the children arrived, we began what was to be a full day of whole class block building. We designed and constructed a fairy tale land as I led the children through the steps of whole class block lessons in brainstorming, group planning, building, playing with their characters in fairy tale land, and problem-solving when conflicts arose. The children were able to implement the concepts they learned from the literature study of fairy tales, using their brains and their bodies in harmony. It was the highlight of that school year for me and the children.
As teachers begin their school year, I hope they remember that movement is good for everyone! There are so many ideas for helping kids move. It makes us feel better–and helps us learn.