Moving minds through movement (July 2019)

Students at Hertford Grammar School in northeastern North Carolina are getting a mental and physical workout in the classroom. The Moving Minds Through Movement program introduces fitness equipment to the classroom for students to use during classroom instruction, aiming to address deficiencies in academic progress through active education. The implementation of this program has positively impacted students both academically and behaviorally.

“Teaching kids in the 21st century is very different from teaching kids in the industrial era,” said John Lassiter, Hertford Grammar School principal. “We are preparing kids for different kinds of careers.”

In preparing kids for their future, Hertford Grammar School third grade teacher Christina Brown teaches her students in a kinesthetic classroom. Exercise equipment in her classroom includes ellipticals, exercise balls and stationary bicycles.

“The benefits from this equipment have been increased student engagement and student growth,” Brown said. “My class this year started out at 16% proficient in reading, and at the first benchmark that we took in the second 9 weeks, they were 61.5% proficient.”

The academic improvements made possible with this style of learning also come with improved social skills and the development of cognitive skills. Students pick their own seats and equipment daily, gaining self-knowledge through having the agency to learn and experiment at their own comfort level.

As a result of heightened focus, cognitive skills and self-awareness, Hertford Grammar School students overall had less encounters with disciplinary action since the Moving Minds Through Movement active education program started.

“One single student had 13 office referrals before kinesthetic classrooms were brought to Hertford Grammar School,” said Brenda Lassiter, executive director for the Perquimans County Schools Foundation. “Last year, one entire class collectively had only 12 office referrals.”

With a host of technological advancements and increasing levels of attention deficit in children, the administrators and teachers of the Perquimans County School District recognize the importance of keeping students focused and attentive in the classroom.

After being awarded a grant from the North Carolina Community Foundation, students and teachers alike embraced kinesthetic classrooms at Hertford Grammar School. According to Principal Lassiter, teachers are continually amazed by the progress they see in their students.

This program was largely funded by donors from the North Carolina Community Foundation through their affiliate, the Northern Albemarle Community Foundation. The HCWGMW Fund, the central supporter of this program, seeks to uplift young people by providing support for initiatives geared toward healthy eating and active living for children.

Since 2017, the Moving Minds Through Movement active education program has only grown, being renewed and improved upon each year. In the program’s first three years of funding, it received a total of $95,000, allowing the number of students impacted to increase as well.

While administrators understand that machines and new equipment in a classroom setting could prove to be a distraction, the positive outcomes demonstrate the value in this effort and teachers don’t regret taking this leap of faith.