28 juni 2016

Move and learn: 'Happy children learn more'

Photos made by Monique Teulings.

Children who can be more physically active feel better and perform better. At Herskind Skole (Galten, Denmark) this is more than just an idea. Language and math lessons are reconstructed into physical activities. 'Move and learn' is the message.

This week, teachers and staff of Herskind Skole visited the Netherlands. On Tuesday they were offered a programme, composed by Yvonne Scherphof, ambassador of early english in the Den Bosch region. Early English and physically active learning were the programme's two main topics. Yvonne, kindly remembering my interest in these topics, invited me to join. 

Pupils from primary school Noorderlicht in Den Bosch - my first stop - run a mile a day, mostly in the morning. Running, breathing in fresh air and having fun gives them new energy for the rest of the school day. 

At Noorderlicht I did a short presentation on what Dutch schools, scientists and companies do, find and make to make pupils more physically active. I quoted professor Erik Scherder's famous soundbite 'Sitting is the new smoking', mentioned some projects by Dutch pioneering schools and showed some products of the successful serious (motion) gaming industry in the Netherlands. And I talked about my special interest in the concept of embodied cognition. 

The Danish guests mentioned that in Denmark government asks from schools to have a minimum of 45 minutes of exercise per day for pupils. Interesting idea for the Netherlands!

After this we departed for my birth place Oss. After a delicious lunch at the Nicolaasschool, the Danish guests did short workshops in the classrooms, singing songs and playing language and counting games, after which teacher Rikke Thisgaard gave an inspiring presentation on the 'Move and learn' programme. What I liked very much, was the broadness with which Herskind Skole looks at physical activity. The programme is about different motor skills (vestibular, somatic, kinestetic), is about activities in classroom and outside on the school yard, about linking movement to different school subjects and about individual power breaks on one hand, and massage and other social activities on the other. The Danes also make a difference when it comes to age. For the young the focus is on motor skills, for the older on strength and impact.

Thisgaard showed some photos of truly creative activities and concepts. Put colored mathematical shapes, such as triangles and rectangles on the wall and let pupils find them in the corresponding chalk - 'We use lots of chalk' - drawn shapes on the floor. Jumpspell words in letters, painted on tiles in computer keyboard layout. Run up a hill to find a written text, read it, run downhill and write down the words. 'It took time to collect all these ideas, it took time for the teachers and pupils to be comfortable using them. Now they come up with ideas themselves.'

Our conclusion at the end of the visit: all children benefit from being physically more active. They are more motivated by fun activities and feel better. Our bodies are made for moving, our minds benefit from moving. Now... get out of that chair!

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