School staff find success through classroom movement

May 2017

Healthy students are better learners, and with students spending several hours a day in the school setting, teachers and counselors are often best positioned to encourage physical activity throughout the day. Incorporating movement into a student’s day has been shown to improve behavior, focus, and some measures of health.

In an effort to increase classroom movement in Forest Lake Area Schools, the district’s wellness committee crafted an action plan that included staff trainings for classroom-specific physical activity. One such training, focusing on Yoga Calm techniques, was held on March 28 for 25 teachers and counselors from 12 Forest Lake Area Schools. Living Healthy in Washington County, as part of the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership, supported the training as a way to give school staff methods to incorporate physical activity in the classroom.

Yoga Calm is a program that promotes physical activity, mindfulness, and social and emotional skill development, according to instructor Kathy Flaminio. But the benefits of using Yoga Calm techniques reach far past just classroom movement, Flaminio explained during the training. The movement practices help teachers and counselors teach their students about self-regulation, which in turn can have positive effects on subject retention and test scores.

“I was thrilled with the amount of content that was provided in two hours,” said Forest Lake Elementary School Counselor Krista Armitage. “I liked the hands on approach, and the fact that there were takeaways we could use right away.”

Several other schools in Washington County use classroom movement practices with their students, including those in Stillwater Area Public Schools and South Washington County Schools. A recent survey of Forest Lake Area Schools and South Washington County Schools staff showed 41 percent of trained Yoga Calm participants reported using the techniques every day, and another 41 percent said they used them at least once a week. The teachers and counselors noted in the survey that Yoga Calm skills are especially useful for student self-regulation and de-escalation in the classroom. While the classroom exercises can utilize additional equipment, what teachers need most is often already available: their students, themselves, and a little time.

“The training made it so easy to add the techniques right into my day without having to purchase much…and I didn’t have to change my schedule. I just added the technique in where it fit. One of the best most useful, easy to implement and worthwhile trainings!” offered a participant who took the survey.
Armitage says she would definitely recommend the classroom movement training to other teachers and counselors, so much so that she herself went on to take another full day training in April. She plans to use the skills she’s learned to teach Forest Lake staff and counselors at other buildings so they, too, can use physical activity and movement with their students.

Living Healthy in Washington County is part of the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP), Minnesota Department of Health.