By David Macknish
Head of Junior School Ipswich Grammar
EACH day at Ipswich Grammar School commences with a series of exercises and physical activities aimed at exercising the Junior School students’ brains and developing their “brain fitness”.
Students across all year levels from Prep through to Year 6 commence each school day with a period of physical activity. Building upon skills, fitness and high level activity, these sessions of activity are crucial in the Junior School’s programs which strive for literacy and numeracy excellence.
Critical elements of the daily physical activity program include:
• Learning Connections program involving laterality exercises, coordination and links between body awareness and brain function
• Finger Gym exercises
• Physical fitness development
• Gross-motor program activities
• Fine-motor coordination activities
• Flexibility development.
The benefits of physical activity prior to commencing concentrated work requiring focussed brain function are many. Evidence from imaging sources, anatomical studies and clinical data conclude that moderate exercise enhances cognitive processing and increases the number of brain cells. In addition, it has been proven to oxygenate the brain, improve memory and improves the synapse-brain connections (Jensen, E.; “Teaching with the Brain in Mind”) A research study outlined in “The Human Brain” (www.fi.edu/brain) states that “exercisers showed significant improvements in the higher mental processes of memory and in “executive functions” that involve planning, organization, and the ability to mentally juggle different intellectual tasks at the same time.”
At Ipswich Grammar School, we have encountered similar experiences through our approach to creating the optimal learning environment for our students. Over the last twelve months of gradual implementation of the program, the following benefits have been observed in the participating classes:
• Increased student focus and concentration;
• Improved handwriting;
• Significant increase in fine-motor and gross-motor skill development;
• Increased readiness and willingness to participate in learning activities;
• Reduced distractibility.
Secondary benefits have flowed on to literacy development and reading skills.
The benefits have been so distinct that the Junior School commenced implementing the program across all classes to Year 6 in 2007.
Morning physical activity prior to commencing academic learning will continue to assist the outcomes at Ipswich Grammar School and give the students a crucial “edge” in their learning.
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