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Why We Love to Move it, Move it
Why We Love to Move it, Move it
Dr. Scott Hamilton, Assistant Head of School for Academics

Movement-oriented learning activities are in the DNA of The Howard School's approach.

Brains Benefit When We Move

Unlike many other schools, students at The Howard School are actually encouraged to move throughout the day in order to do their best learning. Indeed, daily PE, movement breaks we call "Spark" breaks, fidgets and fidget seats, and movement-oriented learning activities are in the DNA of The Howard School approach, and there is a science behind this design. For optimal brain function, our brains need good blood flow, and exercise provides more opportunities for our brains to access oxygen and nutrients. We now know through neuroscientific research that exercise actually contributes to the growth in neurons near the hippocampus, the part of the brain that helps form and consolidate memory. In addition to this specific brain region, research is suggesting that exercise is associated with more global positive effects on the brain, such as increased gray matter density in several regions of the brain.

Learning Improves With Exercise

Brain research is also discovering the functional impact of movement and exercise on learning. For example, Harvard physician John Ratey, in his influential book "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," provides convincing data regarding the effects of cardiovascular activity, fitness, and academic achievement. Specifically, schools actually show gains in learning outcomes by taking time away from coursework to increase cardiovascular exercise. Increased physical activity is also associated with better emotional regulation, attentional capacity, and overall physical health. Many studies have suggested that exercise may be as effective as medication or psychotherapy in alleviating symptoms of depression. Movement may also be an effective strategy for children with ADHD; a study found that students with ADHD performed better on complex tasks involving working memory when they were allowed to move while solving them, compared to sitting still.

Movement Is Purposefully Built Into The Howard School Learning Environments

Many of us grew up in traditional schools, with desks in rows, sitting and passively receiving information from a teacher talking at the front of the room. As such, it may seem counterintuitive to see children moving so much in the classroom, and throughout the school day. We now know that the brain learns and remembers much better when the body is active. We are wired to be physical beings, designed to learn while navigating a moving, changing three-dimensional world. At The Howard School, we build in movement opportunities by design, to create the conditions under which our brains are made to learn best- by being active!