Changes to PE classes put brains in action

PE students at Jefferson School in Middlebury are making some changes to the traditional PE class.

They have opened the Brains in Action Lab at the school. In doing so, they added a strong mental component to physical education.

“We truly believe that that there is a connection between the physical and the mental,” said PE teacher Patty Mosness.

“The brain has two hemispheres, the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere, and in order for kids to be able to read or write, they need to be able to transfer information from the right to the left hemisphere and then be able to go back and forth," said Mosness.

For example, the kids were told to put one finger on their nose and one hand on their shoulder. Another exercise has kids walking in place, alternately touching their left elbow or hand to their right knee and their right elbow or hand to their left knee.

Kids also use a ribbon on a stick to make a wide figure eight in front of their bodies.

"I was working with an autistic child and he was used to using the left side of his brain he's very artistic," explained Mosness. "But when he started doing our figure eight, he would turn to his side, and do his figure eights on his side, because he only wanted to work one side of his brain."

And for Patty Mosness, the thought of a kid trying to go through school using only half a brain is as frightening as it is, perhaps, familiar.

“I had a very difficult time learning to read. I was, I'm dyslexic, and so, words on a page, I just couldn't get it,” said Mosness. “I wonder you know, if these things would have been available to me as a child I wonder you know, what could i have done where could I have been. And how much easier could I have been reading.”

The hope in the Brains in Action Lab is that this generation won't have to overcome learning hurdles the hard way. Rather, they'll be able to work it out, through workouts similar to those in the Brains in Action Lab.

"That's really what we looked at is trying to focus on student learning, you now we're trying to make that shift away from focusing on teaching, which says I've taught the skill, versus student learning,” said principal, Curt Schwartz.

"The best thing that can come out of this, is even if we get one kid to read that's the best thing that could happen, you reach one kid it makes a world of difference,” said Mosness. "Because that child has a chance.”

Students perform these exercises once a week for about a half hour at a time. Although if a student needs more help, they will receive the necessary help. Some students attend up to four times each week.

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