THIS STORY IS BROUGHT TO YOU BY McLaughlin Ryder Investments
Story by Dawn Klavon | Photography Courtesy of Move2Learn
For students in Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS), learning is a moving experience.
Thanks to local non-profit organization Move2Learn (M2L), students’ curriculum is infused with movement and exercise to transform learning. Social-emotional and academic learning (SEAL) are at the forefront of ACPS’s priorities, so the inclusion of movement can bring about desirable results, even helping students deal with their emotions.
“I've known about M2L for many years and I became one of our school's two Movement Mentors about four years ago,” says Melissa Poggio, ACPS lead special education teacher at Charles Barrett Elementary School. “M2L provides us with those important resources that help make learning happen and their SEAL lessons have also been really helpful in providing students with understanding of the 'why' behind movement.”
Better Focus for Learning
Founded in 2009, M2L now outfits more than 150 ACPS classrooms from kindergarten through grade 12. M2L’s founder and CEO, Brooke Sydnor Curran, was restless in the classroom as a child and created the program to benefit students like herself.
“I saw the need and was in a spot where I could help students the way I wish I had been helped,” Curran says.
The M2L organization offers packages that mix and match wobble stools, wiggle cushions, balance ball chairs, fidget bands, under-desk pedal bikes and stationary bikes. M2L promotes physical activity so students can maximize learning potential and improve classroom focus.
“Coming off the pandemic especially, our students were learning from home for a pretty long time,” says Curran. “This is a way for students to support catch-up. It’s one of the tools teachers have.”
Curran notes that by including movement in learning, children learn about the mind-body connection, which promotes blood flow to the brain and stimulates neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells. In addition, M2L says movement may decrease stress, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, fatigue, anger, depression and anxiety. This is done by stirring up healthy chemicals like dopamine and endorphins. Physical movement also offers students a chance to move information to long-term memory from their short-term memory, which may ‘clear space’ for more learning.
“I believe the work M2L is doing for ACPS is wonderful and so many students are benefiting from daily movement in their classrooms,” says ACPS parent Nicole Jones. “Active seating, stationary bikes and other brain break activit[ies] throughout the day allow students to exert energy in different ways during classroom learning. It’s fun and shifts the mindset back to being ready for engagement in the classroom.”
In addition to the equipment supplied to ACPS classrooms and schools, M2L provides an educator toolkit with helpful information to integrate physical movement and activity inside and outside the classroom. The M2L toolkit contains fun activities for classrooms, gets children moving and heart rates elevated. Toolkits include items for classrooms like movement cubes, fitness decks and fitness clock posters with suggested activities like crunches, jumping jacks and running in place. The movement equipment and toolkits have proven very popular with ACPS educators.
“We have a waiting list right now. Teachers have been waiting since last May for these materials,” Curran says. “Each of these packages costs $1,000.”
In addition to the educator toolkit, M2L provides comprehensive teacher training, showing how to use the tools. By offering both the toolkit and training, educators optimize equipment use and all the benefits of movement and learning.
Active, Flexible Seating
M2L notes that flexible seating options are game-changers for teachers and students. Educators have reported back saying they have seen tremendous results in improved attention spans and behaviors. The organization has earned kudos from ACPS educators who use the equipment and incorporate it into their classroom day.
“M2L really brings movement to the forefront of our classrooms in Alexandria,” Poggio says. “We have so many educators throughout Alexandria City who know the value of movement in classrooms, whether it be movement breaks or flexible seating, but have limited budgets and often cannot provide these tools to students.”
Stationary bikes are placed in libraries and hallways as well as principals’ and counselors’ offices. The library bikes have a book holder so students can pedal and read simultaneously. Regarding counselors’ and principals’ office placement, educators have found that upset students calm down much quicker if they get a few minutes on the stationary bike, allowing them to get their aggression and stress out before returning to class.
“We just had a quote from a principal saying that a student came in incredibly angry, [rode] on the bike for 10 minutes, talked it out for a minute or two after he got off the bike and was back in the classroom within five minutes,” Curran says.
ACPS parents and students are fans of M2L’s mission in the classroom.
“I am a mom of a 10-year-old who is part of the Spanish immersion program at John Adams Elementary School. I’ve known about the M2L program for over two years,” says Jones. “I asked my child about M2L. He knew about it and said his school was pretty involved. He thought it was a great idea and that all children should have the opportunity to move throughout their day for better participation.”
Funding for Move2Learn
M2L receives funding in three ways: from grants, individual donors and donations from local or regional businesses.
“In our minds, fundraising is not just begging people for money,” Curran says. “It’s opening up the door for people to make a difference in their community — it really is — and that’s what we do.”
Brooke Sydnor Curran, CEO
The CDC Agrees
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports that “classroom physical activity can benefit students by improving their concentration and ability to stay on-task in the classroom and reducing disruptive behavior, such as fidgeting.” In addition, the CDC claims physical activity improves students’ motivation and engagement in the learning process and their academic performance, bringing about higher grades and test scores.
“M2L is such a great idea, as it provides ACPS educators with active seating and stationary bikes in their respective classrooms, promoting movement for all students to learn better and to stay engaged throughout their busy learning day,” says Poggio.
Before & After School
M2L offers programming before and after school in ACPS by partnering with teachers and schools with clubs and after-school programs. Out-of-school programs offer students opportunities to try physical activities they may never have been offered before.
“We’ve got running, we’ve got walking, we’ve got lacrosse, we’ve got boxercise,” Curran says. “We supply everything from sports bras to socks to hijabs—anything that is a barrier for a student to participate, to meet their peers, to try something new.”
Only in Alexandria
For now, M2L exists exclusively in ACPS schools, but Curran says she’s seen great interest from other districts. Weekly, the group is contacted by other school districts requesting information.
“We’ll have conversations. Sometimes, we’ll send one of our toolkits,” she says. “But 99.999% of our work is in Alexandria City.”
For more information about Move2Learn, visit move2learn.org or call 703.220.4261.
Run! Geek! Run! 5K
Ironistic is pleased to host its 16th annual RUN! GEEK! RUN!, this year benefiting Move2Learn, a cool organization focused on providing and implementing strategies to get kids moving inside and outside the classroom to prime their brains for learning. Oh, and at NO cost to the kids! We hope the community comes together on September 24th at 8am, starting at the George Washington Middle School, to show support for the students and demonstrate the benefits for physical fitness.