YMCA of Greater Erie

Action Based Learning Program is Whole-Brain, Whole-Body

Wattsburg, PA – Ron Gibbons, physical education teacher at WattsburgElementary School, believes that learning is tied to  movement.  And, there’s a growing body of research to suggest that he is right.

“At Wattsburg, we’re seeing that action-based learning helps kids stay attentive and focused in class.  It’s teaching strategy that teaches specific academic concepts by actually carrying out a physical activity, rather than listening to a lecture or merely watching a demonstration,” says Gibbons.  “Educational research suggests that about 85 percent of school-age students are predominantly kinesthetic learners.”

WattsburgElementary School, in partnership with the YMCA of Greater Erie, began incorporating action-based learning for preschool children in 2011.  Gibbons says the approach at Wattsburg is whole-brain, whole-body learning as he works closely with YMCA preschool and Wattsburg kindergarten teachers to dovetail action-based learning concepts with classroom lessons.

“The kids may be playing a game of hop-scotch, but each square and number in the square is a different color – identifying their square and number before advancing.  Or, they may trace shapes taped to the gym’s walls with their dominant and non-dominant hand.  At the mat station, they look at a poster with a diagram of how to write letters and then replicate it by walking the outline of the letter on a special mat.”

“Kids are having so much fun, they don’t know they’re learning,” says Y Early Care & School-Age Enrichment Center Director Lindsey Lasher.  “In the classroom, we’ve seen such a great improvement with fine and gross motor skills as well as their spatial recognition.  Gym class, which is they way the children refer to it, is something they look forward to everyday.”

Early indicators from kindergarten teachers show that the Y’s students who participated in Action Based Learning are in a higher percentile both academically and perceptually among their peers.  Students are assessed several times per year and ongoing adjustments made to their learning says Gibbons.  “So, for example, if a child is having difficulty with a particular concept academically or socially, we might adjust how we are teaching it through Action Based Learning.”