OVERVIEW of Naperville Central's Learning Readiness Physical Education Program

“. . . not less than two hours a day should be devoted to exercise. . . I speak from experience, having made this arrangement of my life. If the body is feeble, the mind will not be strong.”                           

Thomas Jefferson

 Movement and Learning

             The understanding of the brain and how it works has opened up a whole new genre of study for educators.  A plethora of information exists about how exercise affects learning and how best to combine the two.  The good news is that it appears exercise positively affects learning; the body and the mind work together.  In fact, according to Jerry Gabriel cited in the Brain Connection, a “growing body of research [suggests] that physical activity is integral to keeping cognitive processes working on all valves” (1).  Current educational practices were developed in the early 19th century well before any of the brain research existed.  Could it be time for a change?  Schools need to literally do some “sit ups” and take notice!

            Experts in the field continually tout the benefits of exercise and cognition.  Dr. Hesslow, a Swedish neuroscientist who presented at the last International Learning Conference held in Trelleborg, Sweden, stated that, “All things being equal, a physically active student has an advantage in learning; an inactive student is at a disadvantage for learning” (Action Based Learning Lab, 5).  Research even suggests that physical activity can impact student performance enough to elevate test scores.  Is it time to add exercise to the curriculum of test prep courses?  Maybe Dr. Ratey  (www.johnratey.com) of Harvard Medical School is right; exercise is indeed “miracle grow” for the brain!

NCHS LRPE = MIND and BODY CONNECTION

 Learning Readiness Physical Education was designed based on research indicating that students who are physically active and fit are more academically alert and experience growth in brain cells or enhancement in brain development; NCHS pairs a PE class that incorporates cardiovascular exercise, core strength training, cross lateral movements and literacy and math strategies with literacy and math classes that utilizes movement to enhance learning and improve achievement.

LRPE students step beyond the traditional classroom/PE space constraints in order to be challenged intellectually and keep in physical motion with tools such as the exercise balls, podiums with Bosu balls at the base, balancing boards, Smartboard, etc.  LRPE students tend to lead learning conversations that prove rich in focus and production – ultimately, greater retention occurs because of their quality, student-led, physically engaged, learning conversations regarding vocabulary, story elements, and mathematics.  LRPE students have experienced notable gains in their reading ability and comprehension as well as improvement in math and other courses.  Starting their day with physical workouts seems to be "waking up" their brains.  The study incorporated in this project is providing the justification for expanding the program so many more students can experience the improvements and achievements of the original group.

NCHS LRPE = MIND and BODY CONNECTION

*      Growing Brain Cells *      Eye Tracking & Balance exercises
*      Improving Cognition in Reading and Math *      Increasing Alertness through Cross Lateral Movement
*      Improving Student Fitness Levels *      Helping Manage Stress

 

Eye Tracking and Balance Exercises

*      Throwing and catching a ball *      Gymnastics
*      Tap Dancing *      Kayaking
*      Shooting or passing a puck *      Rock Climbing
*      Trazer *      High Ropes
*      SportWall *      Physio Ball Training
*      Hitting a moving target with a ball *      Hitting a ball with a racquet

The following picture is two brain scans. The one on the left is someone who has not been moving at all, while the one on the right the participant has just completed a 20 minute walk. The scans were part of a University of Illinois Brain study.

The History of LRPE at Naperville Central:

 

 

 

*All math students in 2008 were in LRPE classes