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The (Possible) Importance of Activity for Learning

UPDATED: 23 July 2014 – Some people argue against the science behind this article – these viewpoints are valid, and part of a potentially larger discussion about the arguments contained within. To read an example of these view, click here (external site).


 

The importance of exercise and activity is a significant feature in making us happy; when we are happy we’re more acceptable to learn – so why are a lot of learning activities within schools very sedentary? States of physical inactivity are clearly shown in scan images, which have been released by the University of Illinois, which show the stark contrast of the brain after a limited amount of exercise.

With so much curriculum to be delivered to pupils, priorities within schools means that the focus on physical education and exercise is being squeezed out of the timetable, but within the modern culture of technological use; transportation; and fears of obesity rate, the importance of promoting exercise within schools improves the physical and mental condition for all and is essential.

In the UK, we are on the edge of an inactivity epidemic, with fears so real that the Government is investing £150 million in both 2013/14 and 2014/15 to raise standards of physical education in primary schools, with heads expected to spend the money on specialist games teachers, running sport competitions and improving facilities. Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Lady Campbell, chairman of the charity the Youth Sport Trust said…

“Being inactive not only adversely affects children’s physical health, it can also undermine their mental and emotional well-being, and limit their ability to achieve in all areas of school life.

A healthy, active child is more likely to perform better academically across all subjects; they will be more confident individuals; have greater employability skills, and are far more likely to have higher levels of self esteem.”

Previously, the New York Times has cited research demonstrated that children aged 9-10 years of age performed better in tests if they had been exercising just before….

Previous studies found that fitter kids generally scored better on such tests. And in this case, too, those children performed better on the tests. But the M.R.I.’s provided a clearer picture of how it might work. They showed that fit children had significantly larger basal ganglia, a key part of the brain that aids in maintaining attention and “executive control,” or the ability to coordinate actions and thoughts crisply. Since both groups of children had similar socio-economic backgrounds, body mass index and other variables, the researchers concluded that being fit had enlarged that portion of their brains.

If you are imagining a room full of sweating children, all hyped up after excessive exercise, then don’t worry. The researchers concluded that “just 20 minutes of walking” before a test raised children’s scores, even if the children were otherwise unfit or overweight. The top tip. Take your pupils for a walk before a test or exam!

The importance of activity, and providing brain breaks is an important area for consideration for teachers, with plenty of ideas available to support, including these 20 YouTube clips suggested by TeachTrainLove blog:

1) ‘The Sid Shuffle’ Ice Age Dance Video

2) Madagascar’s ‘I Like to Move It’ Video

3)  Wyclef Jean ‘Electric City’  Music Video

4) Just Dance Kids ‘Get the Sillies Out’ Video

5)  Minions DJ ‘You Should Be Dancing’

6)  Shake Break Video

7)  Just Dance Kids 2 ‘Whip My Hair’ Video

8)  ‘The Ding Dong Song’ Crazy Frogs Video

9) The Learning Station’s ‘C’Mon Let’s Dance’ Video

10)  Mario Dance Video

11)  ‘Respect’ Rap Video

12)  ‘The Cha Cha Slide’ Instructional Video

13)  ‘If You’re a Kid’ Instructional Video

14) Dancing Pandas Video

15) Sesame Street:  ‘Share it Maybe’ Video

16) Cee Lo Green’s ‘Kung Fu Fighting’ Video

17) Backyardigan’s ‘I Gotta Feeling’ Video

18)  Some Nights:  Wreck it Ralph Video

19) Koo Koo Kanga Roo’s ‘What’s That You Say?’ Video

20) Just Dance ‘What Does the Fox Say?’ Video

Perhaps some of these videos could be used in staff meetings, or professional development sessions. You know the ones!

Image source.