My grandson started second grade at a new school this year. It’s a good school and he’s doing fine.
But the new school has been a big adjustment for him. It’s a lot stricter about certain things than his old school. There’s less recess. Students have to sit quietly through lunch. There’s a lot more control over the general level of physical activity.
Professional educators know a lot more than I do about organizing a classroom and allowing learning to take place. Still, there’s something about the way this new school operates that strikes me as unfortunate. It seems unnatural that kids should spend so much time sitting in chairs and being still.
And recently I ran across some of the scientific data that supports my intuition.
Researchers at the University of Wurzburg in Germany, among others, are following a trail of inquiry into the ways that movement fosters creative thinking.
A test that researchers use to measure “creative thinking” is the Guilford Alternative Uses Task. The basic idea is to ask someone to list all the different ways you can use a common object — a paper clip or a mirror, for instance.
What their research showed is that subjects performed better on this task when they were walking as compared to sitting. And if they were walking, they performed better if they could choose their own walking path versus having to walk along a proscribed route.
I’m convinced, through my personal experience, and by paying attention to my patients, that creating movement is one of the most important things your brain does. And it’s one of the best ways to send stimulating signals from the body back to the brain, too. That’s what keeps your brain sharp.