Learning in Motion at Brecht Elementary, Lancaster, PA

MoveIt @Brecht Elementary May 2017
Third grade student Maura Cloonan hops to remember her spelling words.
Third-grade student Maura Cloonan hops to remember her spelling words.

Active Learning Update: Brecht Elementary School
Karen Quinn, Active Learning Specialist, Grade 3

brechtThe year began with education. I decided to start with research and rationale.

We have experiences within our school to prove that activity supports productivity in the classroom so this was not a hard sell. Next, I researched and presented a variety of techniques, strategies and activities –just a few brief minutes  -at each monthly faculty meeting. The goal was to provide practical ways to embed productive activity into an already existing curriculum and pacing guide and provide accommodations across grade levels and abilities. I wanted it to seem natural.To take this to another level, I needed to generate funds for classrooms and additional practical materials that inspire rigorous movement while learning. Manheim Township Education Foundation (MTEF) supported our plan: Active Learning Equals Student Engagement by providing $789 for a customized k-4 package, Energy for Learning Tool Kit from Fizika Group. The kit contained activities and tools that teachers can use to promote physical activity while learning. For example, some items include alphabet bean bags, numbered disks, large math cubes, a physical BINGO, Skillastics.

As the year progressed, physical activity became increasingly linked to the classroom. Physical breaks became a natural intervention for specific students. Students walk briskly, with an adult and come back to class with a clear mindset and ready to try again. Personally, I embedded activity into my annual goal. My math students monitored their academic performance on basic fact tests by comparing their scores with and without rigorous exercise. Whether our increased performance related to random assignment, or skill tested, we all agree that physical activity did not hamper our performance and most like supported increased scores. Students continue to exercise rigorously prior to longer math tests and feel that small breaks and longer spurts of activity promote stamina. We have fun rotating the activity dice amongst teams while testing.

MoveIt @Brecht Elementary May 2017
Brecht Elementary Students Enjoy Move It! before school begins.

Move It!  

Finally, as a school, we’ve incorporated an idea, Move It, where teachers and students begin the day together walking briskly outside for approximately 15.  This is fun, generates positivity, and promotes camaraderie.    Next year, I envision my team matching activities to specific learning needs.  Now that we are all moving, we can continue to enhance classroom performance and climate by individualizing active learning strategies and techniques.

Public Education is under Attack

Opening Day 8-26-13 large
Opening Day 8-26-13 large
Robert Fulton Elementary School, Lancaster, PA

Recently, legislation has been introduced in Congress and in many state capitols to fundamentally change how we fund and provide public education. Some bills favor providing tax incentives or other forms of public subsidies to parents who want to send their children to private or parochial schools.

There are excellent private, parochial and charter schools in the US. But they can’t fulfill the fundamental need for all citizens to be well-educated.

“If an elective republic is to endure any great length of time, every elector must have sufficient information, not only to accumulate wealth..but to direct wisely the legislatures, and the executive of the nation…the permanency of our government depends upon such knowledge. It is the duty of government to see that the means of information be diffused to every citizen,” said Thaddeus Stevens when he was a state representative speaking in defense of the Free Schools Act of 1834.

183 years later, Stevens’ words still ring true.

In December 2015, President Obama signed landmark legislation, the Every Student Succeeds Act, which is based on the Whole School, Whole Child, Whole Community framework of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and ASCD.  States have been preparing for implementation beginning in the 2017-18 school year.  Now Congress is considering legislation to repeal this law and its core authorization act, the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1964, a fundamental component of  President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”   President Johnson understood that education provides a pathway out of poverty.

America’s children deserve fair and equal access to high-quality public education regardless of race, gender, religion, nationality, disability or geographic location.

Please join Fizika in advocating for stable, fair funding of public education.



Boost Student Learning with Motor Skill Exercises

Lauren Finn, Active Learning Specialist
Lauren Finn, Active Learning Specialist
Lauren Finn, Active Learning Specialist

The association between physical activity, cognitive function and academic performance in children is compelling.  Research tells us that schools need to spend more time on physical education, include longer periods for recess, and provide more opportunities for students to get up and move around in the classroom.  How can we achieve these objectives in a typical school day?


Physical activity is often associated with cardiovascular or aerobic exercise. These activities often require students to change clothes (or at least shoes) and move to another location (the gym or outside). The result is what teachers and administrators call “lost time”.

As an alternative, particularly in the classroom, schools should consider motor or coordinative exercise.  A recent study[i] compared cognitive and memory performance among children randomly assigned to one of three groups: cardiovascular exercise (CE), motor training exercise (ME), and control (CON). The participants were 9 to 10 year olds that took part in 45 minute sessions, three times per week for ten weeks. Students in the CON group attended assisted homework sessions while the CE group participated in running and running-based activities and the ME group participatedcAin motor training (balance, coordination, spatial orientation). Following the intervention, the cognitive performance of both the CE and ME groups improved greater than the CON group; however, the ME group improvement was larger. In addition, the ME group alone showed significantly higher scores on memory performance than the CON group.

Does this mean we need to change direction? No. It means we have more options. There are many easy activities that can be done in a classroom to develop balance, coordination, and spatial orientation. For example: Have students stand next to their desks. Ask them to lift their left leg in front of them. Instruct them to raise their arms out to their sides for balance. If they can do that, tell them to use their right hand to touch their left foot and then return to having their arms at their sides, without lowering the left leg to the floor. Repeat 5 times then switch legs. There will be quite a range in students’ ability to do this!

Motor activities are easy to find online and, due to their less intensive nature, may be easier to incorporate into the daily life of a classroom. This, in addition to strengthening our PE programs, and offering increased opportunities for active play at recess sets our children up for success. Physical activity – in the forms of both motor and cardio exercise – can and should be a natural part of the school day.

[i] Flora Koutsandreou, Mirko Wegner, and Henning Budde, “Active Voice: Exercises that Emphasize Motor Skill Factors Are Better for Improving Cognition in Children,” ACSM Sports Medicine Bulletin (September 6, 2016). http://www.multibriefs.com/briefs/acsm/active090616.htm.

Lauren Finn earned her Masters and PhD in Education Policy from the University of Maryland. She is a certified Physical Activity in Public Health Specialist as well as an Active Learning Specialist.

Her email address is:  laurenrfinn@gmail.com


Fizika Group Applauds Every Student Succeeds Act

Active Learning in the Classroom 2

Fizika Group applauds “Every Student Succeeds Act” – signed into law by President Obama in December 2015.  The bi-partisan legislation took more than a decade to emerge from Congress.  The new law elevates the role of school health and physical education as part of a student’s “well-rounded” education. Other subjects noted in the definition of well-rounded education include art, civics, history and geography. The term well-rounded education replaces the term “core subjects” that was used in previous Elementary and Secondary Education Act proposals.

The new law delivers a much-needed fix to the outdated policies of No Child left Behind by rejecting the overuse of standardized tests and one-size-fits all mandates, and instead, empowering states and school districts to develop their own strategies for improvement.

President Obama signs landmark education bill

“We applaud the U.S. Congress for recognizing the importance of school health and physical education as key components of a well-rounded education,” says SHAPE America Chief Executive Officer E. Paul Roetert, Ph.D. “Health and physical educators are uniquely qualified to ensure that all of America’s students develop the skills, knowledge and confidence to enjoy healthy, meaningful physical activity for a lifetime.”

Fizika Group was founded in 2009 to help make health and physical education relevant and prevalent.  Research has shown that active students make better learners.  “We applaud this new law and look forward to working with school districts across the country to make quality health and physical education available to every student,” said Ginny Ward, Managing Director of Fizika Group.   “Students who move while learning are more attentive, focused on task and perform better academically.”