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Brain Gain

Dexter students are moved to learn

by Shelley Daily

From the January, 2011 issue

Students at Bates Elementary School in Dexter aren't sitting still in their classrooms--and that's just fine with their teachers and principal. The K-2 school is using Brain Gym--a program funded through a grant from the nonprofit Educational Foundation of Dexter--to get students moving in an effort to "wake up their brains."

Teachers were trained in a couple dozen movements that are intended to integrate both sides of the body and both sides of the brain. Laurie Sarver says a short break during the school day to do some deep breathing and "cross-crawls"--alternately touching one hand or elbow to the opposite knee--gets restless kindergartners focused again fast.

She even uses Brain Gym during math instruction. Counting by fives is more fun and productive when students pair up and play patty-cake, calling out numbers and reaching across diagonally to their partner's hand. And she thinks the left-to-right movements they practice also reinforce how children learn to read and write--from left to right.

The Brain Gym program, launched in the late 1980s in California, has proponents of its learning-through-movement philosophy worldwide. Bates physical education teacher Patrick Glynn introduced Brain Gym in his classes four years ago after learning about it at a conference.

Two years ago, he and fellow teachers got a grant from the educational foundation to train the entire staff and integrate the program into the curriculum. He often starts gym class with Brain Gym stations: kids step left-right-left over a jump rope or into hula hoops on the floor and draw large figure eights on paper with markers--techniques that use the whole brain.

Principal Roger Moore is supportive of the program. "Giving up five to ten minutes of classroom time for Brain Gym is easily gained back in learning time," he says. "I think people recognize there's amazing research that supports how important brain development is at an early age." He says it's programs like Brain Gym that helped his school earn a 2009 Michigan's Best award from the Michigan Association of School Boards for its reading program.

With school budgets being slashed, Dexter schools are relying more on the educational foundation to fund programs that otherwise wouldn't be offered. "This is a program that's working, that's innovative, and has a onetime training cost. It's a program we can sustain," Moore says.

The Educational Foundation of Dexter will host its annual fund-raising auction and dinner March 13 at North Point Seafood and Steakhouse. (See Community Events, p. 27.) Call 474-9797 for    (end of article)

[Originally published in January, 2011.]


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