Wiggle Room: Learning In Place – The Importance Of Transitional Movements To Learning
October 13, 2020
Another work day filled with back to back Zoom meetings, staring at the computer screen, and sitting at the home office desk that was previously known as the dining room table.
Sound familiar? Yes, of course, it does! As the new normal, COVID work-from-home continues, it’s all too familiar. Unfortunately, the convenience of virtual meetings from home means that the number of transitions and movements we used to experience has now decreased dramatically. Long gone are the days of visiting coworkers down the hall, rushing to the conference room for a meeting, and getting up and going out for lunch.
As some students return to in-person learning, sitting and staring at a computer screen all day is no longer an issue. However, the new COVID academic environment that schools are implementing also has its drawbacks. As students are catapulted into social distance learning in the classroom and around campus, many are struggling, especially after not having attended a class in person in six months. New COVID policies and procedures have most students receiving all instruction in the classroom and also eating lunch at their desks.
For most students, core classes and extracurricular classes all are taking place in their main classroom, at desks spaced for social distance. Students also have water bottles at their desks to prevent potential virus transmission at water fountains. Granted, these policies and procedures are required for safe learning environments. However, like adults working from home and not moving from one place to place, children have lost transitional movement. The difference is, adults have figured out how to manage this loss and accommodate for it. Adults have the ability to get up and move – like walk to the bathroom, make a cup of coffee or let the dog out. These spurts of movement may not be enough of what the body needs or seem like much when compared to pre-COVID, however it can be enough.
For children, remaining in one area for the majority of the day poses challenges. Movement is crucial for the body to sustain attention and for the brain to attend to and get ready for learning. Movement also fuels oxygen in the blood throughout the body, and more importantly, for the brain to be alert and attend, a critical precursor for learning. There are several strategies that a student can learn to utilize in order to incorporate movement throughout the day.
These strategies to increase student movement can be requested by parents and implemented by teachers with school approval.
- Request flexible seating options, such as a wobble stool, wiggle cushion, or rocking desk chair.
- Request a safe space square be marked off with masking tape to stand and move around the desk area.
- Encourage outdoor learning for a safe learning space and extra movement opportunities.
- Off-campus walks in the school neighborhood instead of recess on campus.
- Provide a personal fidget tool bag to keep in your child’s desk. Be sure all items are labeled.
- Create directional obstacle courses for walking patterns in hallways or outside.
- Minimize teacher-only space, and maximize student spaces.
- Cozy corners can be transformed with surfaces that are easily disinfected. Systematic processes can be established by the teacher to designate student use and needed disinfection.
Much emphasis has been placed on guidelines and procedures for schools to create safe, in-person learning environments for students and teachers. Although important, the loss of movement and transitions because of these changes must be addressed in order for students to achieve success and learn in their COVID school environment.
Kimberly Bradley, MS, LOTR, is a pediatric occupational therapist and owner of Kim4Kids in Metairie.