ROCS Mom Lisa Gillispie is a licensed massage therapist specializing in CranioSacral Therapy, Somatic Experiencing, and Restorative Exercise. Anyone who has spent time around Lisa knows she personifies her belief that, "Our bodies have a whole lot of wisdom to share with us if we will take the time to listen." In this post, Lisa interprets Red Oak's commitment to giving kids time throughout the school day to move, in large and small ways. Her professional perspective is valuable in helping us understand what we are doing well, and why we must stay steadfast in our approach to teaching and learning in and through non-traditional means. Echoing the old Latin adage "mens sana in corpore sand" (A healthy mind resides in a healthy body), we hope this post inspires YOU to get up and move, with and without your kids!
-Jodi Kushins, ROCS Blog Editor
When faced with the decision of where my daughter would attend elementary school, it was really important to me to find a place where she wouldn't have to spend extended periods of time sitting. As a bodyworker and movement teacher, I see the impact that people's movement habits have on their bodies every day. I see how our lack of movement negatively impacts joint mobility, flexibility, strength, circulation, bone density, digestion, immune function, insulin resistance, and more. Movement is as essential to the function of our body as breathing, drinking water, and eating good food. In short, our bodies requires movement in order to work well.
Most of us don't live lives that requirement much movement. It's the curse of convenience. We don't have to forage or hunt for our food. Most of us don't rely on walking or biking for transportation. In an effort to make up for that lack of movement, we exercise. Unfortunately, going to the gym 2-3 times a week for 30-60 minutes, doesn't meet our body's movement requirements. It's not a substitute for movement throughout our day. Research has shown us that people can exercise regularly and still experience the effects of being sedentary because 30 minutes of gym time doesn't undo the effects of extended periods of sitting.
One of the many great things about kids is they still remember how to move. It's up to us to provide them environments that support their natural instinct to do so and don't force it out of them. Lucky for us, Red Oak is committed to providing kids with a movement-friendly learning environment.
Every day at Red Oak kids get a minimum of two hours of outdoor time. Time for exploring, actively playing imaginative games, swinging sticks, climbing trees, running up and down the creek bank, walking across a fallen log, squatting to look at interesting bugs, and bending over to pass under some brush. Below is a small sampling of movements our kids are engaged with day in and day out. Notice the different positions their joints are in and all the different muscles that are being used. This is "exercise" in real life, aka movement! (Photo credit: Cassie Pickleman)
Climbing & Hanging
Squatting, Balancing, & Reaching!
Even when they're inside in their classrooms, ROCS students have freedom to move and change positions because they're not tied to a desk. You'll spot kids reading in bean bag chairs, sitting cross-legged on the floor, or squatting to take notes.
These non-exercise movements offer variations in joint position, require different muscles to be used, and create changes in blood flow. They put weight on bones in a variety of ways which aid in their strength and density. Movement throughout the day also supports nervous system regulation.
But wait, there's more!
Believe it or not, movement helps with academic learning.
Big movements like running, jumping, climbing, walking, skipping, throwing, and catching help develop gross motor skills. Gross motor skills require the large muscles of the arms, legs, and torso. According to Schoolsparks.com, "Strong gross motor skills depend, in large part, on strong muscles. Muscles gain strength through repeated activity and practice." You might be wondering, what do gross motor skills have to do with learning and academics?
Did you know that gross motor skills are needed to help kids participate in classroom activities that require body control, like handwriting and reading?
Gross motor activities help develop something called bilateral integration. Bilateral integration is the term used to describe movements that use both sides of the body simultaneously. See how this Red Oak student is writing with her right hand and stabilizing the piece of paper with her left hand? That's an example of bilateral integration. The climbing, jumping, squatting, throwing and other activities that students do during their outdoor time, helps them develop bilateral integration and makes it easier for them to accomplish academic tasks like reading and writing.
Yes, movement really does impact academic learning!
So, not only are Red Oak kids moving throughout their day which has long term impact on important health-related things, but movement is helping them learn.
Mud isn't just our school color, it serves our kids' long-term health and academic lives as well.