Movement in the 21st Century

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Remember when your teachers used to yell at you for running in the hallways? It turns out they might have been using some 20th century thinking. In an effort to change the ways we think about school spaces, Ever Active Schools is rolling out a new program that is turning Alberta school hallways into more active spaces, and their students into more engaged learners.

Ever Active Schools, a provincial initiative designed to assist school communities “in addressing and creating healthy school communities,” recently embarked on the 21st Century Spaces project centered on what they are calling “Activity Permissive Learning Environments.” The project looks at how the design of classrooms, schools and play spaces impact health and learning outcomes in students.

“The physical spaces of our learning environments shape staff and student behaviours in meaningful ways. For example, if there are no bike paths leading to a school, then students are less likely to ride their bikes to school,” says Brian Torrance, Director of Ever Active Schools. “We have seen changes in pre-service teacher education, teacher professional development, curriculum development, and even the outcomes children will gain from their education. The 21st Century Spaces project is an opportunity to make sure our social and physical environments keep pace with these changing demands of education.”

The 21st Century Spaces project is based on the work of Chris Fenlon-MacDonald, a physical education specialist who joined the Ever Active Schools team in 2015. You can read the full story of his research and work here, but the short version is that at his previous job at the Panorama Hills School in Calgary, Chris saw a valuable opportunity to capitalize on movement within the school day to increase student daily physical activity, promote physical literacy and active transport between classes.

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Chris decided to increase active transportation at the school, and he targeted the hallways. He started by laying out patterns in tape on the floors between classrooms, and let the natural instincts of the kids take over. It didn’t take long before the halls were packed with young students hopping, skipping and jumping their way to their next class. The patterns were such a success that the school decided to raise money to make the patterns in the halls permanent.

Here’s how the halls look in action:

The push to bring 21st Century Spaces into our schools is starting to spread, reaching other schools in Alberta and even into the United States. Recently, Ever Active Schools helped École Barrie Wilson Elementary in Red Deer, “modernize” their hallways too. In a fun twist, the school engaged the children to help design the patterns in the halls, and it has now become a source of some very serious planning on the part of the children. In mid-September, École Barrie Wilson Elementary and Ever Active Schools released a video sharing the story of their move to a more active school environment:

When your teachers yelled at you for running in the hallways, they usually did it to keep you safe and prevent injuries. Safety is still a concern for school administrators, but as Chris Fenlon-MacDonald points out, “It actually promotes some critical thinking rather than just saying, ‘no, you’re not allowed to run in the hallway,’ or ‘no, you’re not allowed to hop in the hallway. At Panorama Hills Schools the students were encouraged to ask themselves, ‘Am I being safe? Am I being respectful?’ and if they answered yes to both of those questions their actions were likely helpful ones. Let’s encourage students to think critically about the consequences and the benefits of their actions, an outcome we want in 21st century learners.”

You can learn more about Ever Active Schools and their 21st Century Spaces for 21st Century Learners project at everactive.org. Follow Ever Active on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

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