Archive for May, 2012

“How Exercise Impacts Learning (Part I).” – Jane Wolff

Wednesday, May 23, 2012. Today I am grateful for Jane Wolff, Sopris Learning, and Allison Cameron for their educational leadership. – Doc Meek


(Click on image to enlarge): Park City School, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CANADA


This article (Part I and Part II) has been written by Jane Wolff on behalf of Sopris Learning who develop learning resources for children and schools. They offer many tools and resources including a writing curriculum and a reading curriculum.

Moving Equals Learning

Teachers and parents are constantly looking for strategies to boost learning, but what if the solution was as simple as spending more time at recess or gym? Turns out, physical activity can have a significant impact on cognitive function and academic achievement. A 2007 study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise found that students who increased physical activity at school scored significantly higher on standardized test scores. Numerous other studies have shown similar results.

What does exercise have to do with learning? Researchers believe that exercise may improve cognitive function in several ways. First, exercising releases “feel good” hormones, known as endorphins. These hormones promote feelings of peace and well-being. After exercise, children are better able to focus and concentrate because of this hormone release. Exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. More blood flow means more oxygen, resulting in improved brain function. Physical exercise also improves internal nutrient uptake so kids get the energy they need to learn and think.

While some schools have cut recess and gym programs in recent years because of reduced budgets or an over-emphasis on academics, many schools understand the value of exercise in school settings. For example, teachers at Lone Tree Elementary School, a magnet school in Denver, Colorado, USA, weave music and movement throughout the day. Additionally, the entire school takes a “Brain Break” mid-morning. During this time, children engage in music, movement and games, in addition to regularly scheduled recess and gym times. The staff at Lone Tree Elementary understands that children learn through movement and activity.

At City Park school in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CANADA, resource teacher Allison Cameron has been providing leadership for many years, before other schools took up the challenge. Here is City Park school’s description of their current program, “Movement Matters”:

Movement Matters



(Click on images to enlarge): Students in Allison Cameron’s class at City Park School, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, CANADA, stride purposefully on treadmills provided by a fitness expert; by walking briskly to get their heart rates into the “training zone” these students can focus and do schoolwork meaningfully for 2-3 hours, an impossibility prior to the introduction of the exercise program.

Movement Matters is a science-based program, designed to enhance mental focus, retention and cognition through specific physical activities before class instruction. By enhancing oxygen and blood flow through the brain and body for a specific pace and time benefits the:

Body by allowing stored body fat to be accessed as the preferred fuel source.

Brain because collateral circulation potentially multiplies brain cells and enhances cognition when a learning stimulus is offered immediately following the session.

Spirit because neurochemicals are released enhancing mood and focus which leads to greater self esteem, classroom compliance, and the reduction of disciplinary issues.

The aim is to provide a simple and inexpensive solution to reduce children’s exposure to chronic diseases, while fostering lifelong fitness habits, enhancing academic performance, and reducing absenteeism and disciplinary issues.

The approach is that it gets all kids active, not just the athletically inclined; instills lifetime health and wellness benefits of physical activity; exposes kids to the fun and long-term benefits of movement; and integrates Physical Education with other academic subjects.


A big thank you to Jane Wolff for her great tips for parents and teachers about movement and learning, and to Sopris Learning for their great reading and writing programs, and to Allison Cameron for her pioneering work with movement and learning!

Doc Meek, Wed, May 23, 2012, Sherwood Park, Alberta, CANADA