• The JABADAO Team

Near constant motion ...

Part of the JABADAO Podcast #Episode1 for those of you who would rather read than listen ... or hop over to the podcast to listen to this, and more

This is a great quote from Dr. John Medina (he’s a Developmental Molecular Biologist) about the nature of we humans and how we learn.

“The human brain appears to have been designed to solve problems related to surviving in an outdoor setting, in unstable meteorological conditions, and to do so in near constant motion. So, if you wanted to design a learning environment that was directly opposed to what the brain is naturally good at doing, you’d design a frickin’ classroom!”

Near constant motion is what we humans need - it’s what we’re built for. And what our youngest children do until we stop them. (O, and then we get anxious that they’re not moving enough, so we and devise programmes to get them moving again!)

If near constant motion is what we need, then we’re doing pretty well in the early years sector. But let’s be even clearer so there can be no confusion, because there are plenty of conflicting messages around at the moment that make things harder.

The sector is jammed between two policy areas - get children active (for their health) and make sure they’re school ready (able to sit still for years of sedentary learning). Whoops.

Now we know that this is not what it explicitly said - the sitting still ready for school bit. But my goodness we see the pressure that practitioners (and parents) feel around this. That undertow which is not spoken, but is nevertheless very influential. The unspoken gold standard for physical behaviours is containment.

So as we think about what education should look like, maybe we should go at things the other way round from usual. Instead of creating a sedentary curriculum onto which we add bits of movement, let’s create near constant motion and add on the bits we need for our fantastic cognitive skills to do their thing.

Now that’s radical. But we have had many targets, for many years, around how active we should all be and loads of us miss them. Maybe it’s time to take a radical step.

OK. Let’s suppose we do this. There are some interesting issues to tackle.

What does the day look like in near constant motion? I suspect, from going into lots early years settings, that you might say - not so very different for you. It would be very different for primary and secondary of course.

But what would your building look like if we took this really seriously? Outdoors is one thing. But what about inside? A lot clearer I suspect - more space for moving bodies. More inviting floors to move on. And walls to climb up maybe! There's an interesting thought.

But how would we support all those other area of learning. Do they need stillness for the kind of concentration required? Or are we just so far down one perspective about how we think about learning, that it feels revolutionary to consider learning on the move. Genuinely on the move. It will take all of us together to think around this one ... if near constant motion is closer to the heart of things.

There are many movement specialists - from many different backgrounds and perspectives - who have lots to say about the ideal balance between resting and movement. What our bodies and brains really need. Wouldn't it be interesting to invite them to debate this with us in the early years sector? And develop a curriculum that enshrines near constant motion.

And then to advocate for it on behalf of our children, who - let's face it - know it anyway.

Interested? Let us know and we’ll see what we can organise …

(Wrote this dictating while walking ... but had to sit to edit)