At School, Children Need To Move

In 2013, I was invited to lead a professional development workshop for Turnaround Arts (TA) — a program of the President’s Committee on the Arts. Using the arts to create success in struggling schools, Turnaround Arts is a deeply effective program, succeeding in 68 schools and 15 states. The leaders of TA strongly urged me to create a curriculum of dance exercises that teachers can implement themselves in their classrooms to break up the day and to inspire focus and creativity.

I call them Break Time Brain Boosters (BTBB) and they are a result of both Turnaround Arts’ urging and my work with brilliant professionals from both Celebrate the Beat and National Dance Institute. Last February, I was joined by extraordinary artist educators Jerry Korman and Ellen Weinstein to lead a two week arts infused residency to introduce these BTBB to teachers at Bethune Community School in Minneapolis, MN, where the population is rife with the challenges that poverty brings: intense anger, wild emotional swings, learning disabilities, and 5th graders at a 2nd grade reading and math level.

We worked with all the K-5th grade children and teachers, teaching four dance classes to 4th and 5th graders, and four or five 20-minute “Break Time Brain Booster” classes to K-5th graders each and every day. The experience of working with teachers inside classrooms with full classes was amazing. We shared exercises that the teachers can lead themselves that give all the children an opportunity to refocus and move during their days. The children and teachers were extremely receptive because the BTBB engaged each child with rhythms and accessible movement. The children were inspired to get their hearts pumping and faces smiling and the result was an ocean of positivity that changed the fiber of the classrooms.

In the words of Jody Lazo, who is an instructional specialist and the arts integration coordinator at Bethune Community School:

Every classroom teacher had the opportunity to participate in the Break Time Brain Boosters being introduced and modeled with them at their students. As a school that supports Responsive Classroom, this strategy for student engagement with movement breaks, and arts integration aligns perfectly to our goals and beliefs. The students had fun learning the BTBB, especially Fruit Salad and Positivity Poses!

The teachers love playing Fruit Salad with their kids when a movement break is needed, and they have also used it as a tool to improve comprehension and understanding of key vocabulary and concepts by replacing the fruit names with content language and defining poses.

In addition, the Positivity Poses have been invaluable in creating internal change with our students. Unfortunately a lot of our students face extreme challenges and the Positivity Poses help them to positively state and pose a representation of themself; and in turn, rethink their self- image to a more powerful state. The benefit of this is personal to each student, yet teachers can attest to the shift in attitude and behavior as a result of this work.

Overall, the BTBB have been successful for promoting and encouraging movement breaks in a structured environment, furthering increased comprehension through a mind-body connection, and increased confidence evidenced by attitude, effort, and behaviors.

Now, I’m sharing them with teachers and parents alike with the hope that they are utilized in more schools and that more children can experience the benefit. You can view and download your copy of“Break Time Brain Boosters” here.

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