19 July, 2017
The Walking Classroom
Photo: © Walking Classroom
When we imagine a classroom, it’s invariably rows of students sitting at desks staring at a blackboard with pens and paper in front of them for notes. Some of them will be twiddling their thumbs, others tapping their feet, many will be agitated and bored. In addition, time for student outdoor activity across the United States is being cut back year after year in favour of a greater emphasis on academic work.
Laura Fenn, founder of the Walking Classroom, realised that learning could be combined with exercise without sacrificing any instructional time. Through The Walking Classroom, students take a 15-20 minute walk as a class while listening to an educational podcast on their pre-loaded WalkKit audio device. Directly aligned with the fourth and fifth-grade curriculums, the Walking Classroom has distributed nearly 35,000 WalkKits in 1,300 schools in states across the country. The Walking Classroom distributes thousands of kits each year with support from Oak and other foundations. There are over 300 schools still on the waiting list.
Students who have used the Walking Classroom have responded well to the programme and look forward to the days when walking, listening and learning will be incorporated into their lessons. “When we listen to the podcasts, it really stays in our brain,” says Dillon, a fifth-grade student from Colorado, “it doesn’t go in one ear and out the other.”
In addition to the health benefits that come from walking and being active, there is much research confirming the link between exercise and cognitive function. Students come back to the classroom more engaged and focused and they more easily retain information. “My fourth-grade class this year has a number of behaviour and learning issues,” says teacher Cathy Furlong. “Walking every morning has turned so many of them around in just a few days. They absolutely love the walking and listening. I also love walking and hearing them laugh at the funny parts.”
The Walking Classroom is a partner with Oak’s Special Interest Programme. To find out more about the Walking Classroom, visit its website or check out the Walking Classroom ‘Walkumentary’ video below.