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Sunday, October 05, 2014

Why Does Sitting Still Equal Learning?

Follow on Twitter as @BodyMindChild
This piece is excerpted from Rae Pica's forthcoming book, tentatively titled What If Everybody Understood Child Development?, to be published by Corwin in 2015.

A few years back, Christy Isbell, a pediatric occupational therapist and friend, presented a workshop at the annual conference of the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), with a title indicating it was about teaching children who won't sit still. The exact name escapes me now, but I very clearly recall that more than 2,000 early childhood professionals crammed themselves into the room to listen to her.

Photo: Huffington Post

I was envious -- because my session, about movement, didn't draw half that many! And I joked with Christy that perhaps I'd "borrow" the title and use it for all my future presentations.

If you think about it, though, it's actually sad that such a title/topic would bring educators out in droves. Naturally they were teaching children who won't sit still; they were working with young kids! And so, naturally, they shouldn't have been trying to get the kids to stay in one place.

Whether we're talking about preschool, elementary through secondary school, college, or even adult learners, I have serious objections to the idea that learning supposedly only comes via the eyes, the ears, and the seat of the pants. Schools -- and policymakers -- have for too long accepted the belief that learning best occurs while students are seated (and quiet, of course). The theory may have been understandable back when they didn't have the research to prove otherwise. But today we do.

Today we have research showing that the more senses used in the learning process, the higher the percentage of retention. Yet schools still pump data through the eyes, ears, and bottom and expect students to retain it anyway.

Today we have research showing that the brain is far more active during physical activity than while one is seated. Brain-based learning expert Eric Jensen told me in an email:
The brain is constantly responding to environmental input. Compared to a baseline of sitting in a chair, walking, moving and active learning bumps up blood flow and key chemicals for focus and long-term memory (norepinephrine) as well as for effort and mood (dopamine).
Yet schools and policymakers cling to the belief that the body has nothing to do with how the brain functions.
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Source: Huffington Post

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