Learning to Move, Moving to Learn

GiGi Gonzalez, Staff Writer

“The human body, for the last 400,000 years, has primarily been walking, sleeping, leaning, running, doing, or squatting,”

Can the solution to improving education be so simple? How is movement connected to quality learning? Students in school are constantly shifting in their chairs, tapping their feet, or fidgeting with pencils during instructional time. When this happens, teachers will usually discipline their students telling them that what they’re doing is a distraction to the classroom environment. In doing so, teachers only temporarily fix the problem instead of solving it.

Out of the six hours in a school day, students at Renton High only get an average of 30-45 minutes of time to move our bodies and it gets even more worrisome when you realize the only time we have to retain new information is the five minute passing periods before each class. This proves problematic as our brains are designed to learn only short bursts of information at a time. The system of processing information happens when new information enters the hippocampus, which is responsible for routing it to various areas of the cortex to store in your long term memory. The brain can only work with three new pieces of information simultaneously before it begins to overload and when we present students with new content every hour, this overstimulates this structure and results in no new learning.

Moving on to the vestibular system of the brain, a sensory system that is responsible for providing our brain with information about motion, head position, and spatial orientation, we can examine that an active body increases the activity of a mind and encourages good learning practice for all age groups. The activation of the vestibular system is important because it is the most dominant contributor to sensations and, most importantly, induces learner focus. This system is also essential in controlling eye movement, which is necessary when learning reading and writing skills.

Not only can we examine our brains to come to the conclusion that movement is necessary in education, but we can also look at the way students are positioned at a 90-degree angle with their desks and chairs throughout the day. Students have the best point of view with their papers when it’s tilted at a 45-degree angle. When their papers are on a flat surface students tend to hunch over their papers to do their work, putting pressure on their diaphragm and internal organs, and restricting blood circulation and oxygen to the brain. Unfortunately, desks aren’t the only issue when it comes to learning. Chairs are a relatively new invention in human history after 400,000 years of human evolution. Our bodies were meant to be in constant motion, we simply aren’t cut out to be sitting for hours upon hours each day as the human body can only withstand sitting on a chair for ten-minute intervals. When you sit the pressure on spinal disks increases by 30% and the typical student who spends a majority of their day on chairs risks poor breathing, strained spinal column and lower back nerves, poor eyesight, and overall body fatigue.