Clearly there is no shortage of controversy surrounding Brain Gym. There are advocates and critics, but someone somewhere is still using those exercises. There must be some benefit or they wouldn’t bother. I couldn’t help but wonder, what can we all (advocates and critics alike) take away from Brain Gym?
At its most basic, Brain Gym is a chance for physical activity. You will be hard pressed to find educators who don’t support children being active. Our most elementary observations tell us that children need activity. We’ve seen them fidget or get restless. Some of us are relieved to have our grade eight students after Phys. Ed instead of before. This post seeks to find out why that is.
The “hidden curriculum” In schools pushes for children to master skills of sitting still and sitting quietly. We suppress their urge to fidget. It has been suggested that movement is an anthropological need (Breithecker 2007). Even while sleeping we are not completely motionless for eight hours. The need for movement will be manifested in the form of bouncing knees, tapping pencils or even more “disruptive” forms.
Researchers believe that there are also neurological needs being met by fidgeting and physical activity. A basic explanation would note that our brains need oxygen. Physical activity increases the circulation of blood and oxygen, providing our brain with what it needs. A healthy brain will send the signals to initiate the unconscious fidgeting like the bouncing knees. Some studies have even confirmed that physical activity will stimulate the development and maintenance of synapses (Breithecker 2007).
Perhaps Brain Gym is not totally without value. You are providing a short break in the routine and you’re providing structured activity. If it’s the name you object to, call it “Crazy Anti-Cranky Fidget Time!”. Ultimately it’s a short burst physical activity and many of us are hard pressed to object to that.
Breithecker, D. (2007). Beware of the Sitting Trap in Learning and Schooling. DesignShare. http://www.designshare.com/index.php/articles/sitting-trap/