The research is overwhelming connecting movement to student achievement. So when we examine our students’ movement throughout the day we know it involves more than student getting 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (recommended minimal amount from Centers for Disease Control.) We also know that our students, like us, experience cognitive performance decline after just 20 minutes of being sedentary (sitting at a desk.)
My principal, being a promoter of positiveness determined we should call our initiative “Purposeful Movement in the Hallway.”
We completed our first step at a staff meeting when my principal allowed me a few minutes to present the research to our teachers. At our school, like yours, we all work hard to allow students to learn at their highest potential, so our staff showed interest when presented with the compelling research.
At the meeting I offered laminated posters to our staff to either put outside or inside their classrooms.
These posters were created by my friend Jorge Rodriguez, an outstanding elementary physical education teacher in Texas. The posters include educational information stating the cognitive benefits of the specific physical activity, QR codes and augmented reality linked to “how to” videos. Thus the posters throughout our building also serve educational and promotional purposes to parents and our staff.
In addition to presenting the research and posters at our initial staff meeting, I introduced the idea of having students move in a way other than walking in the hallway. This was “front loaded” by me taking on the “how?” and “why?” with our student population. I did this by putting a grid on the carpeted hallway just outside the gymnasium. As each class lined up I explained the research to them. “Our brains work better when we have an increase in blood flow. Thus, walking down the hallway is good for our brain prior to learning, but just think how much our blood flow increases when our heart rate increases, like when we hop, jump, or lunge.” We discussed even though our bodies were going to be moving differently, we still needed to follow our school’s motto: safety, ownership, attitude and respect. This meant although we wanted to improve our brains’ function, we still needed to be quiet, and move at a safe speed as to not interrupt others’ learning. We practiced outside the gym as the students entered and exited for the next few weeks.
The next day classroom teachers could be seen leading their classes doing lunges, hopping and jumping various patterns down the hallways. The next step, to place movement grids throughout the school was widely accepted. We use velcro strips created by SitSpots on our carpeted hallways to create the grids.
Most teachers chose to put activity posters up outside their classrooms in the hallways. Teachers can use these activity posters for their entire classes, stations or for specific students. We all have students who create their own brain boosts,(they take frequent trips to the bathroom, pencil sharpener….) Our staff decided to post the brain boost posters up outside each classroom pod so our students could take responsibility for their own needs. Students “self prescribe” brain boosts by using the posters when they feel the need for a break. Students simply go outside their classroom door and participate in one of the many choice poster activities.
This fall we began like any other year. We practiced with students walking silently in the hallway. Once our students had mastered moving safely and respectfully through the building, I put multiple grids down throughout the hallways. Now students, teachers, parents alike all mover through our hallways boosting their physical activity and their cognitive function. What was once an idea I tried pitching to our principal has now become part of our school’s culture.