Planning for ‘Action’ in Education
By Carla Bowles, Athletic Director
The idea that sports and Physical Education have a positive effect on learning is not a new one. Keeping in mind that Physical Education and sports are two very different things, let’s start by focusing on the idea that any sport or activity in a child’s life is beneficial to normal growth and development. With regard to maturation, movement and sport are needed in areas such as motor skills development, muscle and bone strength, balance, coordination and social-emotional development. As educators, we see the developmental benefits of socialization, team work, respect or empathy for others, sharing, trust, leadership and even the benefits of learning to deal with disappointment from an early age. Most studies conclude that there is no negative impact of physical activity and cite the need to protect recess, unstructured play, exploratory play, extra-curricular activities and Physical Education classes as part of a normal school day.
Since our students spend a majority of time at school, we as a community become one of the greatest influences on the extent to which our students remain physically active. At Branksome, many of our teachers and students walk or ride their bikes to school. As educators and parents, we are the best role models for the habits our children will practice and acquire as lifelong choices. Another way we role model at BHA is through MiM, ‘Move it Monday.’ Every Middle School and Senior School student rotates through a physical fitness activity on alternating Mondays at 3 pm for an hour of activity. This program was initiated at Branksome to make sure we are modeling the importance of physical activity in our daily lives.
During the teaching day, current trends in education all point toward interactive learning of content and interspersing learning tasks with energizers. This means students do ‘brain breaks’ and activities at transition points or teacher planned activities where students can be up, out of their seats, and are encouraged to interact, manipulate and speak to others about the curriculum content. This is called kinesthetic learning and the link between learning and activity is even more prevalent in a growing body of research. Engaged, active students learn better. There is a plethora of websites with examples of educators doing interesting, active, lessons with students. Not only can teachers share resources, students can access all sorts of interactive options to supplement daily class content.
This week, with our students at home, I was able to send video links to exercise videos and guide students in the right direction for physical activity at home so they can continue with the topics we started in class. Some of us, as adults, may also use applications (apps) that track steps, monitor our heart rate, track sleeping hours or nutrition plus videos or apps that guide us through workouts or teach us new dance moves. All of these sources of information are helpful in supplementing a student’s understanding of good lifestyle choices. When you are involved in CASE or Branksome sports teams, you belong to a group; you find others who share your interest and you form relationships based on a commitment to that sport or activity. These activities could include anything from our current competitive MS Volleyball team, doing a ‘walk and talk’ on a Tuesday with Mr. Baker or learning Muay Thai with Ms. Maksimava. We also offer a variety of skill-based activities where girls can learn to ride a horse, bike or skateboard. When I asked the student leader girls to prepare a plan for skills, they were also able to look online for tutorials or ‘helpful advice to new riders’ and I am thankful they can take these steps on their own.
This year I attended the BHX trip to Canada and we met with previous Branksome Hall Asia students who told our current students about their experiences in universities since graduation. What resonated with me most was that each of the girls talked about their extra-curricular activities while at Branksome. They all mentioned how CASE gave them new experiences which carried over into their current lives, and life choices. One girl mentioned seeking out horseback riding while in university and said that she still goes regularly. These Branksome graduates told our current grade 9 girls how they were able to reach out to people by joining clubs and activities offered at the university. One of the girls even said that she now appreciated what Branksome had taught her about balance through CASE and understood the importance of balancing her academics with other experiences in her first year. She knows she was too stressed with her courses but needed to release some of this tension. She knew she had to be active and eventually signed up for sports, made some friends and had some life balance again. As such, what we do here at Branksome influences future lifestyle choices as well as student learning and well-being.
Some research articles:
Some fun websites for teachers or families: