Education

Breaking a Sweat Can Boost Kids’ Math and Reading Skills: “Action Based Learning” Is an Innovative Solution for Schools

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Imagine if your child could bike, bounce, balance, and swing—in the middle of a math or reading lesson. That’s what an elementary school in Horry County, South Carolina just made possible with its new Action Based Learning classroom.

If, like a lot of parents, you have kids who don’t like to sit still in school, you’ll appreciate this educational approach. Action Based Learning classrooms, or labs, are outfitted with child-friendly exercise equipment that’s specially designed to be incorporated into academics. So a student can swing back and forth on a “snowboard” machine while completing a reading assignment, or build ankle strength on a balance board while reviewing multiplication. The idea is to increase kids’ engagement in the classroom through physical activity.

Action Based Learning is a new approach to learning.

Most of us are used to the traditional school environment where kids are constantly asked to sit still. However, as Brian Gaten, superintendent of schools in Emerson, New Jersey told the New York Times, “We need to recognize that children are movement-based. In schools, we sometimes are pushing against human nature in asking them to sit still and be quiet all the time.”

The positive effects go far beyond fitness.

Movement doesn’t just add fun to the classroom—it’s been shown to boost learning outcomes as well. “Children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active,” states an Institute of Medicine report.

Many other studies have demonstrated the link between physical activity and cognitive skills. One long-term study from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, for example, showed that a regular physical exercise program improved elementary school kids’ high-level brain functioning, including the ability to concentrate and the ability to effectively multi-task.

We all want our kids to do well in school, but we want them to have time for physical activity too. Integrative solutions like Action Based Learning are a win-win for families.



Joanna Eng is a freelance writer and editor, Lambda Literary Fellow, and co-founder of Dandelions, a parenting and social justice newsletter. She lives with her wife and child in the New York City area, where she is constantly seeking out slivers of nature. You can find her on Twitter @joannamengland.