Saturday, March 28, 2015

Get Out! (outside, that is)

Bodies need to move and stretch in order for the mind to be productive, especially kids.  “Asking students to simply stand up increases blood flow to the brain by 10-15%...there is a direct link to the cerebellum, which coordinates muscle movement to the pleasure centers in the emotional systems” (Gibbs, 2001).  This blog will be peppered with quick energizers I use whenever the class has “the tireds” or conversely are “too hyper.” They all allow time for the students to move while making personal connections with their peers.

This proactive tool for classroom management keeps their blood moving and brains engaged while building and strengthening personal relationships:  a win-win for all!  When they can see connections and similarities with others, the human condition is celebrated and walls begin to break down.  Today, however, let’s talk about the breakdown of literal walls.

Go Outside Sometimes.  Create lessons that take your class outdoors occasionally.  For some students, simply appreciating the sky, the landscaping, the clouds, and the trees is a privilege they do not encounter often enough, especially if you work with a lower socio-economic community.  “Higher poverty neighborhoods ... are less safe, less comfortable, and less pleasurable for outdoor physical activity, and have less favorable social processes” (Franzini, 2010).

Sample Activities:
-A simple walk around the center quad can be energizing and life-affirming.  We are moving through the campus as a class, a team, a unit, a family.  Stay together and don’t let anyone fall behind or get too ahead.
-Have kids take pictures with their phones of their favorite spots on campus.  When you get back to the classroom, have them show the picture and explain why that spot is special (the G rated version, please).
-Descriptive journaling: everyday scenes placed under a writer’s magnifying glass.
-Socratic seminar - circle up and discuss yesterday’s lesson
-Homework questions
-Ball toss: toss a stuffed animal or ball around the circle and the one who catches it says anything that is on their mind.

Going outside is an energizer in and of itself. It doesn’t need to be elaborately planned or take up much time to be effective. Unfortunately, many classrooms still lend themselves to mostly sedentary work with little movement.  If we can build some in, we can hopefully buy more engagement time with the kids...and maybe even see a cool looking bird.

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