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Blogs

RIDE supports several blogs throughout our website where Rhode Islanders and RIDE staff share their thoughts.

On this page, we have collected all of the blogs on our site - many of which share posts from Rhode Island educators other than RIDE staff. Blogs are listed in alphabetical order:

  • Commissioner's Corner: Blog posts and messages from the Commissioner to the Rhode Island community.
  • District Teacher of the Year (DTOY): Posts from the Rhode Island District Teachers of the Year, past and present, who share about instructional successes and challenges they encounter in Rhode Island classrooms.
  • Equitable Access to Excellent Educators: Rhode Island educators and RIDE staff explore factors and perspectives on the importance of ensuring that all students are taught by high quality educators.
  • Leadership: Reflections and insights from RIDE’s Leadership Fellow and other district and school leaders on the challenges and opportunities of being a school leader.
  • Rhode Island Poet Laureate: Reflections and poetry focused on teaching, learning, and the experience of education from Tina Cane, Rhode Island Poet Laureate.
  • Rhode Island Science Education (R.I.S.E.): A communication blog to update stakeholders in education and in the community on important developments, events and accomplishments in science education in Rhode Island.
  • Student Voice: Because student voice is an essential component of our discussion on education, RIDE will post essays written by students from around Rhode Island.

Click on a category below to filter by a particular blog:




Move and Learn?

Posted by: Meg Geoghegan on 1/28/2020

Jennifer Wentworth, MS, PT

Physical Therapist 

West Warwick Public Schools


What’s the connection/science behind movement and learning? Or exercise and behavior? Why should we build it into our school day? And what kind of movement is most effective? As a school-based physical therapist, I am intrigued by these questions, and the answers enable us to have classrooms with children who are better regulated and who are better learners.

We know that movement isn’t one size fits all! What works for one, may rile another up! So what are we to do in the classroom? Let’s look at the science. We know the cardiovascular and strength benefits of exercise, but many don’t know how it affects our brains. Dr John Ratey, a neuropsychiatrist based out of Harvard University and author of the book Spark, says that a bout of exercise is “like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin.” Exercise turns on the frontal lobe of the brain; this area is known as the “CEO of the brain.” It causes the body to make more neurotransmitters (we all know we need these for brain function), and causes the body to produce BDNF, or brain derived neurotrophic factor, which is a “Miracle-Grow” for the brain. Exercise readies the brain to be “plastic” so it can process new information! When we exercise, we start neurogenesis (make new pathways to process information), it turns on attention, motivation and memory! 

And let’s not forget the frontal lobe of the brain and its prefrontal cortex. Turning on this lobe helps with executive functioning such as planning, organizing, initiating or delaying a response, consequence evaluation, learning from mistakes, maintaining focus, and working memory! Whoa. Exercise helps a whole lot of things that we see our students struggle with in the classroom. 

In a nutshell, physical exercise turns our brains on and readies them to learn!

Dr Ratey talks about the Naperville, Illinois, school system in his book Spark. He references this system because of their innovative approaches to exercise and embedding it into the school day, as well as to highlight their educational successes. This district of 19,000 students has daily physical education, and it is fitness based. So the students spend more time exercising at a level that they can sustain, a level that is challenging for them. What they have seen is that only 3% of their school population is overweight (33% is the average in CA) and they are seeing improved test scores. A South Carolina school that specializes in working with youth with behavioral challenges implemented a similar program. They saw an 83% drop in discipline in four months time.  

Daily exercise will make a difference for our children. This is a lot of research being conducted in this area, and there is a focus within the research to help to make recommendations based on age groups. Taking time to exercise will not take away from academic performance. In fact, those examples (any many others) prove the opposite. Exercise helps our children to learn. The carryover from 20 minutes of exercise (with the heart rate elevated) lasts for hours! 

So what can we do in the classroom? Currently recommendations exist at the high school level for 20 minutes daily with a heart rate at 65-75% of max. Not easy to do in the middle of geometry. We can certainly encourage and support innovative PE programs and settings such as exercise rooms and use of things like heart rate monitors during class.  When students are “zoning out” or after lunch have them do some squats at their desks, squat jumps, jump back and forth, do wall push ups, or do some calf raises. Wake their bodies up. For the younger kiddos, those sensory motor pathways are great where they have to jump, hop, spin, walk a line, crawl etc. Hopscotch, jumping or running in place, and arm walk outs are also great options. You want them a little out of breath when they’re done! Even doing a run down the hallway and back (or across the field and back before coming in from recess), something to get those hearts pumping. Something quick and intense seems to be the most beneficial for the younger child.  

Example of a sensory motor path in an elementary school
Example of a sensory motor path in an elementary school

 

Exercise is something that benefits everyone. The science is still emerging and is so powerful. We can be creative and impactful with minutes a day!

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