Many schools have made a decision to limit or cut back the physical education curriculum in favor of more classroom time. The pressure on the schools to bring up test scores has created a system of cramming rather than true education. These schools have decided that studying for a test is a better use of time than the slow and patient process of layering content, experiences, rest and exercise. The sad outcome is a generation of students who are burned out on school and have no creative problem solving skills at their disposal.
There are many ways that a student may arrive at school unprepared for learning. Physical and emotional stresses abound and poverty, of which 20% of American children live in, only contributes more stress. Distressed children typically experience constricted breathing and trauma can negatively affect memory. (p.44, Jenson) Exercise is the cheapest and most effective ways to lower stress hormones. For example the hormone cortisol can aide in providing sort term energy in a traumatic situation, but if the insulting stress remains chronic, cortisol “can wreak havoc on the brain”. (p.44, Jenson)
Learning outcomes can be enhanced from Kindergarten to adult learning settings by providing age appropriate movement opportunities throughout the curriculum. In Early Childhood Education, movement needs to be the main source of content. Through play children learn science, drama, social skills and physical mastery. Play in Early Childhood Educational settings is also disappearing. Not only are their tiny bodies not aloud to explore their surroundings, their minds are being deprived of the positive, brain building chemicals that are released in play such as dopamine. “In the past, children played with their toys; today, we might say that the toys do the playing, and the child watches. Television, of course, heightens this experience. Within the tube, people (or their cartoon equivalents) are running, dancing, juggling, flying, swimming and, of course, wielding very powerful weapons. Outside the tube the child is sitting, or reclining, moving only his eyes. Children are fast losing their instinctive sense for play. Learning how to play must become an essential element in the life of the kindergarten.”(Swartz) Instead of table work, most Preschool and kindergarten children would be more effective as sensory motor centers. Spinning, crawling, rolling and rocking are a better use of a four-year-old child’s time than phonics.
At the adult learner stage, there have been studies that prove the use of Brain Gym exercises can enhance learning. The transition to a higher stage of complexity is more likely to occur when people are in an “ideal learning state” for performing their tasks. Using Brain Gym exercises, which seem to restore ﬂuid, balanced movements and reduced anxiety reactions may be one of many ways to elicit this ideal state.
Physical integration is necessary in a positive learning outcome at any age of learner. A school trying to improve their testing outcomes might be advised to put more rather than less physical movement into the curriculum.
Wolfsont, C. (2002). Increasing Behavioral Skills and Level of Understanding in Adults: A Brief Method Integrating Dennison’s Brain Gym® Balance with Piaget’s Reflective Processes. Journal Of Adult Development, 9(3), 187.
Schwartz, E. (2008). From playing to thinking: how the kindergarten provides a foundation for scientific understanding. European Journal Of Psychotherapy &
Jenson, E, (2008) Brain-Based Learning, Corwin Press, Thousand Oaks, CA.