Dana Road Elementary School students Move to Learn

Published 2:36 pm Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Students gathered in the gymnasium at Dana Road Elementary last Friday to take part in a demonstration of Move to Learn, a program designed to incorporate exercise into the academics of young learners.

The program offers lesson plans and free five-minute exercise break videos for specific age groups.

Coach Larry Calhoun from the Mississippi Department of Education was the presenter of the demonstration and is the star of the exercise videos.

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“Move to Learn is a tool by which teachers can help (students) engage and get rid of some of that pent-up energy. It can be used as a behavioral challenge tool. The main part of it is designed to help with focus, concentration and time-on-task,” Calhoun said. “All the research indicates that when a child moves, things get better academically. They don’t call it a cause-effect, but they say there’s a strong correlation between the two.”

The program is the result of a partnership between MDE and the Bower Foundation, a non-profit focused on improving education and health in Mississippi.

For about an hour, Calhoun showed students dances and exercises that can help them stay healthy and active. Students followed along as he jumped, shimmied and offered words of encouragement to the lively crowd of youngsters.

Tracye Prewitt, the Character Education teacher at Dana Road Elementary, said she was happy to have the program visit the school.

“Move to Learn provides a much-needed brain break for our students throughout the day,” Prewitt said. “Coach Larry Calhoun is a rockstar to our pre-k through second-grade students.”

Scott Clements, State Director of Child Nutrition for MDE, also attended the event. Clements spoke about how the idea for the program first originated

“We saw a school run (exercise) videos in the morning, just as a kind of a pick-me-up for the kids, to kind of get them up and get the day started,” he said. “And we thought, ‘You know, we can take that further.’ We have a special person, Larry Calhoun. He just has that charisma and that way with kids. We thought, ‘We know the person to do it.’”

According to Clements, the Move to Learn program partnered with researchers from the University of Southern Mississippi, and researchers from the university were able to show a beneficial effect on students’ concentration after just a brief period of physical activity.

“What we oftentimes tell teachers is, ‘Give us five minutes. We’ll give you a better hour,’” Clements said.

Calhoun said that physical exercise was very helpful when he was struggling to pay attention in school.

“When I was a child, my teachers knew I couldn’t sit for long periods of time. But they knew I was smart. And they found creative ways to help me learn through movement. The more I moved, the better grades I made,” Calhoun said. “I didn’t understand it. At the time, I was just a 5, 6, 7-year-old kid. I didn’t have a clue about what was going on. And this was back in the 70s. So they had to be seen as outcasts because they were doing something that was outside of the box. But it worked.”

Calhoun said he and Move to Learn staff have toured all 82 counties in the state promoting exercise and wellness in public schools.

Move to Learn currently offers 55 free 5-minute exercise break videos for different age groups of students that can be accessed at its website, movetolearnms.org, as well as the MovetoLearnMS Youtube channel.