By Kay Townsend • September 29, 2022

How One Educator Uses Movement to Make Better Learners

In my last entry, I talked about morning walks with the students of my small, rural school. I started doing morning walks after attending a workshop on how the brain learns. There is a lot of scientific “stuff” about the brain and all its parts and how these parts work in the brain when learning is taking place, but the bottom line is that movement is needed to get little brains firing.

The morning walk we take daily is a little less than half a mile and takes less than 15 minutes. The results of that walk are numerous. I have some little ones who need to chat, I have little ones who have extra energy that needs to be let out, and I have a little guy who uses the walk to get his energy level to raise. Each of them is preparing for a day of learning.

Fortunately, our school is on a very quiet road. The only rule is to use walking feet through the entire walk. Some kids get done quickly, some kids hold my hands, some talk with their friends, some talk with the other teachers, and some walk slowly.

Your brain is made up of many nerves which help send messages to other parts of your brain. These nerves are protected by a myelin sheath. Healthy myelin sheaths keep the brain functioning at a normal state, and movement keeps them healthy. Movement also activates serotonin, a neurotransmitter for learning and self-esteem. The connection between the right and left brain allows the two sides of the brain to communicate and coordinate activities. Movement keeps this happening. So, the morning walk is helping my students maintain a healthy brain.

A child's brain is like a cup. We, as teachers, try to fill it up with a pitcher full of information. I use the morning walk and brain breaks throughout the day to let that information soak into their brains. After that, I can add some more information because I just can’t do it all at once.

In addition to morning walks, I give my students permission to laugh and visit and “play” as needed throughout the day. I watch my students for the need to take a brain break. With my class size being very small, I can see one child needing a break and send him off to “run laps." This is a jog out one classroom door, into the hall, and back through the other door to our class. Sometimes, they will ask to run laps. After these brain breaks, I use deep breathing to calm everyone back down to learn, and I often tell them that their brain has taken a break and now it is time to be a good learner again.

By using morning walks and moving brain breaks, I am allowing their brains to process information and their stress levels to come down. And I get a far better learning environment.

Related Reading

A Day in the Life in a Rural School of 12 Students

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kay Townsend is the principal and teacher of a small rural school in southern Utah. Being a teacher was her lifelong dream. She started her teacher education when she graduated from high school, but life happened and she put it on hold. When her boys were both in school, she finished her associate degree and started working as a paraprofessional. She continued through the next 20 years as a special ed para, subbing, and coaching varsity volleyball and soccer. Later on, she finished her schooling and received a teaching degree at the age of 53.

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