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The Future of Education: Improved Health & Academic Performance

The Future of Education: Improved Health & Academic Performance

“Health, Fitness, And Activity Are The Keys to learning"

SILVER SPRING, MD – October 27, 2015 – Imagine a school where children are moving constantly in classrooms while they learn. Imagine an area in South Carolina where only 50 percent of children graduate from high school but, in another school in the same area, 100 percent of the children are accepted to college.

This is what Jim Baugh, the Founder of PHIT America, saw in a recent trip earlier this month to Charleston, SC and Greenville, SC.  And just a few days ago, the Washington Post published a revealing story of the success of the work in Charleston. Rick Maese, a journalist for the Washington Post, described the kinesthetic approach to learning that is being implemented in some Charleston County School District schools.wash post

This new education approach is being spearheaded by Dave Spurlock, 63, a former baseball and football coach, who serves as the coordinator for health, wellness, and physical education for the Charleston County School District.

“The academic advances in our school children have been unbelievable,” says Spurlock.  “Basically, we have used a kinesthetic approach to learning as opposed to a static approach.  We are proving that you must move to learn.”

In the Washington Post story, there are images of children learning while moving.  One picture shows two elementary age boys who are reviewing math problems while making physical strides on a fitness machine.
Spurlock is determined to convince academic leaders in this country to change their approach to education by following the lead set in Charleston.  Why?  Because it works.

“Physical activity truly enhances academic achievement, but it goes against the prevailing attitude in education which requires our students get more seat time,” says Spurlock, who knows that the more students move, the more they learn. South Carolina Collage

One of Spurlock’s academic innovations is the creation of ‘Brain Rooms,’ sometimes referred to as activity labs.  The ‘Brain Room’ is a traditional classroom, but the children are in constant motion – riding a stationary bike, using a stair climber, walking on a treadmill, working out on an elliptical machine – while learning.

Spurlock says these ‘Brain Rooms’ are very popular classes and the students do well academically.

“In the ‘Brain Rooms,’ we just exchanged desks,” says Spurlock.  “Instead of a static approach to learning, we are using a kinesthetic approach.  We are proving that you must move to learn.”  Spurlock encourages other school districts around the country to do the same.  He started with one ‘Brain Room’ and now there are 12 in Charleston’s local schools.

After seeing the remarkable story in Charleston, Baugh visited with Dr. Julian Reed at the Legacy Charter School in Greenville (SC). The geographic area where the Legacy Charter School is located has children who have a graduation rate of 50 percent.  Legacy has a priority on physical activity throughout the school day. Every student receives daily, quality P.E. And, they also add physical activity periods throughout the school day.  Providing 45 minutes of daily P.E. to all children has led to significant increases in cognition compared to our controls, as well as significant decreases in obesity.

“Wow, the results at Legacy are unbelievable,” says Baugh. “They’ve had two graduating classes and 100 percent of the graduates have been accepted to college. I talked with the students and some of the parents.  Each of the students said, “I love physical education and the way the physical activity wakes me up and energizes my brain.”  Parents’ comments were very similar and they said this healthy lifestyle is carrying over to their homes and families.

“Health, fitness, and activity are the keys to learning,” says Reed.  “More fit kids are doing better (in academics).  Kids learn better when they are healthier.  And, physical activity is a form of preventive medicine.  The gymnasium is a classroom, too.  There’s real empirical evidence that when children exercise, they perform better in the classroom and generate higher test scores.”

“The stories in South Carolina about how physical activity is being aggressively used in the classroom setting is amazing,” says Baugh.  “I have seen these children and schools in action. They are active, learning and getting healthy.  And, the students love this approach to learning. All schools in the U.S. should learn from this. This revolutionary approach can be done and must be done.  What we see in Charleston and Greenville are ideal education models.  Who can argue against this?  Every school district in America should follow their lead.  It’s time for all school district leaders in this country to ‘wake up and smell the roses’ when it comes to the importance of physical activity during every school day for their students.”

What’s discouraging about this issue of getting daily physical activity back into schools is that while worldwide research has been conducted which confirms the link between physical activity and learning, many American academic leaders remain willing to implement this new learning approach in their local schools.

“The scientific research is crystal clear:  more physical activity at school generates better academic results in the classroom,” concludes Baugh.  “PHIT America stands in support of what Dave and Julian and their schools are doing.  We continue to work to make physical education and active based learning models common throughout all U.S. schools.”