Ms. Turnipseed's Class at Pine Jog Elementary walking, listening, and learning.
Since 2011, The Walking Classroom has been increasing students’ physical activity, building core content knowledge, and providing teachers with an educational tool that addresses different learning styles. Research has shown that exercise not only helps fight obesity, but also improves attention and concentration, and helps close the achievement gap. The bonus is that this award-winning program teaches students healthy habits that can last a lifetime.
The program is simple: students and teachers take a brisk 20-minute walk as a class while listening to specially written, kid-friendly educational podcasts that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and pre-loaded onto audio devices called “WalkKits.” There is also a brief health literacy message at the beginning of each lesson. Afterwards, that knowledge is reinforced back in the classroom with lesson plans, comprehension quizzes, and activities provided in the Teacher’s Guide. Available for 4th and 5th grades, The Walking Classroom gets students and teachers outside and walking during regular class time without sacrificing instructional time.
If the program is used 2-3 times per week as designed, students will get an additional 40 to 60 minutes of physical activity each week. The optimal outcome is that students retain the information better, demonstrate improved classroom performance, and make healthier lifestyle choices.
As one teacher put it, “Everyone needs a break. For years, research has shown that fresh air, sunlight, and exercise are not only good for our bodies, but good for our brains! I can't think of anything better than walking out in nature while you learn!”
Several Palm Beach County schools started using The Walking Classroom with their 4th and 5th grade students during the 2013-2014 school year. Those schools include Pines Elementary, Allamanda Elementary, Beacon Cove Intermediate, Berkshire Elementary, and Gove Elementary. The schools were given 287 WalkKits and 15 Teacher’s Guides.
For the 2014-2015 school year, an additional 53 WalkKits and 3 Teacher’s Guides were donated to Pine Jog Elementary and South Olive Elementary. Pine Jog Elementary is particularly well suited for The Walking Classroom program as it adjoins miles of trails on eight acres of woodlands that Pine Jog Environmental Center shares with the school.
Both of these schools have successfully implemented the program, bringing the Palm Beach County total to 15 classes enjoying a school-year’s worth of standards-aligned podcasts that pairs auditory learning with the physical exercise of walking.
Overall, teachers and students in Palm Beach County have been very receptive to the program and, according to surveys conducted by The Walking Classroom in February 2015, over 70% of teachers are still regularly using it with their students.
Fifth grade teacher, Debbie Littlejohn, at Pine Jog Elementary said, “Too many of our kids sit inside in front of screens all day. This program gets them into the woods and listening to lessons. Not only does this program benefit the kids while the program is in use, but kids are more on task and less fidgety when we are back inside the classroom at our desks. Test scores improve, bodies are healthier, nature is enjoyed, and kids are excited about learning! Talk about learning with life-long benefits!
“The best part of The Walking Classroom has been the quality of the lessons. Each one is presented in an entertaining and memorable way. By the time we have done our vocabulary preview, the kids have listened and discussed the topic with a buddy and we've done a whole class debrief — that short little lesson has made a HUGE impact. I find they retain the information much better than if they had just read about it or heard it from me.”
The Walking Classroom has become an integral part of Ms. Littlejohn’s classroom and helped to foster a community that exercises, enjoys nature, and learns together.
Ms. Turnipseed's Class at Pine Jog Elementary getting ready to go for a Walking Classroom walk.
National Finalist: Innovations in Rural Health, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust 2014
National Winner: Teachers' Choice Award, eSchool News 2013-14
National Grand Prize Winner: ChildObesity180 / Active Schools Acceleration Project, 2012
Winner: Health Innovation Challenge, BlueCross BlueShield North Carolina 2012