At the William Mills Foundation we are passionate about alternative methods of learning! One method we thoroughly believe in is the benefit of physical activity. Physical activity is often absent during the school day. It has been proven that students who partake in forty minutes of extracurricular sport per day are hugely more likely to have much higher levels of improvement in the academic field than children who do not.
It is clear that we need physical movement in order to activate our brains and get them ready for learning, however, does the classical structure of our classrooms impede this readiness for learning in our children?
Professor Guy Claxton, in his book ‘Intelligence in the Flesh’ states that “‘We design law courts and classrooms in which physical movements and reactions are treated as disruptions, subversive of the serious work of the mind – yet some people think better when they are moving. Why do we make children sit still if intelligence benefits (as it does) from physical movements and gestures?”
There is compelling evidence which suggests that children and young adults who are aerobically fit have higher brain function, higher academic achievement scores and superior cognitive performance. Alongside this is the evidence which strongly links mental well being and physical activity. So how can we combat this curbing of our children’s learning and cognitive function by increasing physical activity?
Aside from encouraging children to partake in extracurricular sports from a young age, it is also important to encourage physical activity outside of school. Many schools in the UK take part in the ‘Walk to School Week’, which takes place every May. This initiative of walking to school for five days not only increases physical activity, but also has the added benefit of helping to reduce carbon emissions that are produced by driving to school. This ‘Walk to School Week’ is great at kick starting families into walking to school, thus increasing the daily activity of children, which will have a positive effect on their cognitive function.
For teachers, it is important to review class schedules and attempt to fit in some physical movement wherever possible. Even something as small as encouraging your students to stand up and stretch, or walk around the classroom twice during the lesson, will have a positive effect on their learning.
Small activities like such, which are seen as a common distraction to the class and learning environment, further offer a welcomed break within the learning time frame. Steemit education reports that the average attention span of a 10 year old ranges from 20-50 minutes, therefore, within an hour session they may require a distraction from work one to three times per hour lesson.
Instead of this distraction being negative to learning or disruptive to others, should classes be broken down with physical movement to benefit the learning and become more engaging for school students?
Let us know what you think about physical activity being more embedded into curriculums. On our programmes we endeavour to give students breaks away from the traditional curriculum to explore alternative methods of learning and understanding!