During our discussion in class my group proposed a new model in education which included starting each day with exercise. We believe that the research supports this type of model, but there would be significant road blocks in implementing it.
We all know the positive benefits of exercise on the body. One positive benefit to the brain is increased oxygen. Patricia Wolfe states in Brain Matters, “More blood means more oxygen, which increases capillary health and the growth and plasticity of the frontal lobes (Aamodt & Wang, 2008).” (Wolfe, p. 93) Other benefits include the release of a protein, BDNF, which “stimulates neural growth and learning”. (p. 94) Wolfe elaborates saying –
John Ratey, clinical associate professor of phychiatry at Harvard Medical School and coauthor of the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, calls BDNF Miracle-Gro for the brain. Ratey cites studies undertaken in schools that show not only how exercise enhances student learning but how it positively affects the emotional and physical well-being as well (Ratey & Hagerman, 2008) (Wolfe, p. 94)
This is key research to support my groups proposed change. We propose that each school day begins with 30 minutes of exercise. This would be led by teachers and be a type of homeroom for middle and secondary students. In the elementary level it could be daily PE with the PE teacher or daily with the classroom teacher.
In Brain Rules, John Medina also asserts the benefits of exercise on the brain. He cites a study of school age children who jogged 30 minutes a day 2-3 times a week. “After 12 weeks, their cognitive performance had improved significantly compared with pre-jogging levels.” (Medina, p. 15) Scientist were able to find a “direct link” when, after the jogging was stopped, the student’s scores returned to pre-jogging levels. (p. 15) Medina suggests several ways to incorporate exercise into the school day including twice daily recess and even treadmills in the classroom. I believe my group’s solution is also a valuable one.
So clearly the research supports our suggestion so why won’t it work? We brainstormed many roadblocks the main ones being: 1. Funding, 2. Time, 3. Teacher buy in/contract issues, and 4. Parent buy in.
Putting funding aside because that will always be an issue, we addressed the other roadblocks. In regards to time lost on academics, Medina quotes Yancey, “They took time away from academic subjects for physical education…and found that, across the board (physical education) did not hurt the kids’ performance on the academic tests…(when) trained teachers provided the physical education, the children actually did better on language, reading, and the basic battery of tests.” (Medina, p. 24-25)
I believe research and facts would win over the parents. For teachers, especially veteran teachers, change is never easy. However, the bottom line for all good teachers is, “What is best for kids?” When presented with the examples and research, good teachers would compromise and find a way to incorporate this in their classrooms and/or in our school wide plan because it is what is best for kids.
Here is a school who has taken our idea to an even bigger level. I believe if they can do it with the population and obstacles they have, then we can too.
Medina, John. Brain Rules: 12 Principles for Surviving and Thriving at Work, Home, and School. Seattle, WA: Pear, 2008. Print.
Wolfe, Patricia. Brain Matters: Translating Research into Classroom Practice. 2nd ed. Alexandria: Association for Supervision & Curriculum Development, 2010. Print.