Learning to Move – Moving to Learn in PreK – By Kim Walker-Smith

Kim Walker-Smith is a K-8 physical education teacher and the Director of the Jr. Gamma Phi Circus at Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School at Illinois State University. 

A new initiative started in the 2013-2014 school year at Thomas Metcalf School: Daily 30-minute Physical Education for the Morning and Afternoon PreK classes.  

I have been fortunate to be a part of this initiative as the instructor of these classes, and I genuinely believe they will enhance our learners’ physical, cognitive, social and emotional development and help create lifelong movers.  I look forward to sharing the progress of our new learners of movement and all its benefits, through this blog.

The 3 main outcomes that we will achieve over this school year in this program are:

  • The development of a strong foundation of fundamental motor patterns and skills
  • The integration of movement skills with academic content to enhance retention of both competencies
  • Improved social skills and self-confidence through movement experiences

Known benefits of physical activity in children:

  • Repetitive gross motor movement strengthens secondary dendritic branching (the part of the neuron that remembers details). Daily exercise cements the details learned in the last 48 hours, making a case for daily physical activity.
  • Neurogenesis: Growth of new brain cells in the medial temporal lobes, learning and memory center of the brain
  • Increased levels of BDNF (brain derived neurotropic factor) which causes neurons to fire more efficiently.
  • Oxygen and glucose (brain fuel) get to the brain faster.
  • The vestibular system is activated for better balance, which enhances the student’s ability to read numbers and letters.
  • Crossing the midline integrates and energizes the brain for better focus and retrieval of memory.
  • Exercise activates brain chemicals that reduce stress and elevate self-esteem.
  • Basic motor skills lay the foundation for other learning. Movement learning is the starting point of all cognitive skills.
  • Exercise is known to enhance the consolidation of both cognitive and movement memories.

 Information taken from: Action-based Learning, Jean Blaydes, http://abllab.com/feature/30-minutes-physical-activity/

 I look forward to helping our PreK children progress toward mature patterns in basic motor skills, develop healthy fitness habits, and continue to enjoy the love of movement with which they were born through our new physical education program.  Please free to stop in and observe and/ or join us in our fun, learning environment. 

Here are few pictures and video of the kids in action during one of our days of station work: 


In these stations, the children are working on the skills of coordination and balance.  Look at the focus and attention that learners have to be successful! 

In these stations, we integrated academic concepts through a “stretch and read” activity as well as a “learning ladder” by combining cognitive brain functions with physical movement.  According to brain research, stronger neural connections are built in the brain leading to improved student academic performance with this combination.


According to a study by Budde in 2008, bilateral coordination exercise (like the scooter crawling, balancing boards, and catch launchers) leads to the pre-activation of parts of the brain which are also responsible for mediating functions like attention.



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