Nervous energy and emotional turmoil can be major obstacles to a productive learning environment.
Educators in School District #83 have a new tool at their disposal after the district and various school parent advisory councils teamed up with Shuswap Rotary to cost share 72 “Brain Bikes,” exercise bikes placed in classrooms to offer students short bursts of activity helping them with behavioural self-regulation.
Laura Paiement, the district’s healthy schools and self regulation coordinator, says the short burst of exercise offered by the bike serves as a useful pathway for getting students’ minds back into the correct space for learning.
Paiement explained that even very young students in the district are taught that when they are tired or angry, the part of their brain that controls thinking, rather than just reacting in a fight or flight fashion, is not in charge.
She said children today are not playing outside out of school hours as much as previous generations were, so movement breaks throughout the day are more important than ever.
The Brain Bikes are used by students from Kindergarten through to grade 12. Paiement said they have real value for the older students too, as breaks and opportunities to get up and move around are much less frequent in high school and middle school than they are in elementary school.
The bikes are proving to be a helpful tool for students who have issues with fidgeting in the classroom.
“If the kids need a movement break, I just point at the bike and say 20 and they just hop on and do 20 quick rotations,” said Korrie Mueller who teaches a Grade 1 and 2 class at Hillcrest Elementary.
Mueller said her entire class tried out the bike at the start of the school year, but now it is the same students coming back and requesting a brief session on the bike because they are finding it useful for their learning. She said a short ride of a minute or two on the bike, which is placed in a corner of the classroom facing a window, is often enough to get a disruptive or distracted student back on track.
Jennifer Findlay, a Kindergarten teacher at Parkview Elementary, has had a Brain Bike for her classroom for the past two years and has also seen how movement can help students.
She said although movement is incorporated into the school day for her entire class at various times, some students need a little extra and have the option to use the bike.
“Some students who need movement breaks choose to go on the Brain Bikes when they are getting a little bit fidgety,” she said.
Findlay said use of the bike is approached in a positive manner and is always optional for the students. She said she is very grateful for the recent Rotary initiative to bring more bikes to the district.
With help from a matching grant from Rotary International, school PACs and other fundraising streams, more than $40,000 has been contributed to the Brain Bike initiative in the district.
Dave Woolliams, one of those Rotarians who championed the Brain Bike project, said it would not have been possible without the generosity shown by the Shuswap community at their fundraisers.