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Let's Get in Shape! How Exercising the Brain and An Active Learning Environment Benefits All Students

written by: tstyles•edited by: Donna Cosmato•updated: 9/17/2013

Students will be sharper and more willing to learn if they exercise their body as well as their brain. Read on for ideas on how to get your students engaged in active learning environments.

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    Creating a Balanced Learning Environment

    The Importance of Balance & an Active Learning Environment Have you ever heard of children eating a balanced meal being important to their health? Of course you have. Have you ever heard of children simply being able to balance as an important part of their ability to perform in class? I didn't either until today.

    I just attended a conference where our keynote speaker was Ann Anzalone. She suggested that students need to be active learners in the classroom. She meant for the listeners to take that statement literally, and included in her lecture the fact that many children lack proper engagement in tasks simply because they are functioning from the lower part of their brain or because they are operating from either the left or right side of their brain when they should be working at a level whereas both sides are intersected and working together. Good exercise, and in particular balancing activities, helps to accomplish this.

    Ann revealed that many studies have been done on the effect of improving balance to change student behavior. In the studies done the researchers had children participate in a program that had them doing various balancing activities over the course of a few months and at the end the results were profound. The analysis seems to imply that when children are off balance they are quite literally out of whack.

    Ann went on to show documented cases of how balance training (which helps the brain stay wired together instead of apart, functioning only in halves) helped to improve student behavior, performance, handwriting. Of course this idea of balance training connected to the general notion that children getting more exercise are going to be better students. Exercise keeps the brain connected and when the brain is connected children are able to operate at a higher level. She pointed out that children in sports programs are usually better students because of the physical activity lending itself to brain connection.

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    Balance Activities at Home or in the Classroom

    Children who are active learners are getting plenty of up-down time during the course of the day. It makes sense that if children are sitting like a lump of mashed potatoes everyday that their brains will resemble the same pile of mashed potatoes as their bodies. Why would their minds be active if their bodies aren't? Conversely, wouldn't their minds be active if their bodies were active? It makes sense that movement and activity stimulate brain response.

    Believe me, the affects of passive learning are evident when one day you ask the children to direct their own learning experiences. Yikes. Let the training begin.

    Below are a few activities that help children with balancing the brain so they can be better, more active learners.

    The Cross Crawl 2x a day.

    Sit down. Do 28 puppet movements (touch the elbow of the right arm to the right knee and the elbow of the left arm to the left knee.)

    Do 28 crossover movements (touch the elbow of the right arm to the left knee and the elbow of the left arm to the right knee.)

    Wayne Cook Posture

    Sit down. Fold hands. The thumb of the hand that is on top is the ankle to cross on top. Extend arms and cross the arm of the thumb on top over the other arm. Point thumbs down. Wave at the fingers. Fold hands. Draw hands to chest, like a pretzel. Take ten deep breathes with the tongue on the roof of the mouth to breathe in, down to breathe out. Uncross ankles, put fingertips together. Rest hands with finger tips touching on lap. Take ten more breathes.

    Thymus Thump

    Rapidly, tap chest on both sides of the collar bone at the same time. Resets the body's balance.

    Now, go put those kids' brains back together!