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Health Team

'Walking classrooms' help students engage physically, mentally

Posted May 27

— Whether they are listening to a lesson or taking a test, kids spend the majority of their time in school sitting down. 

Health advocates want children to get more exercise, and technology is helping students at a school near Chapel Hill learn while also staying active. 

Duff Coburn, a fourth-grade social studies teacher at Woods Charter School, said podcast technology is helping his children engage with the material they're learning while they get to enjoy a "walking classroom."

"This technology is remarkable in that it's so simple," Coburn said. 

Podcast players, which were donated to the school a few months ago, allow students and teachers to follow along with 86 different programs that include lessons in language arts, math and science. 

In a recent class, Coburn's fourth graders learned about Deborah Sampson, a Massachusetts school teacher who wanted to fight in the Revolutionary War disguised as a man. 

While listening to the lesson, students walked several laps around the school's soccer field. 

"You're not actually taking the children out of the classroom," Coburn said. "The classroom goes with you."

Coburn says the physical activity helps students better absorb the lessons. 

"You're getting more blood flow to your heart. You're pumping more blood to your brain and we get more oxygen up there, it actually works better," he said. 

Coburn said post-lesson discussions are livelier when students get a chance to be outside. 

"They're asking really deep, critical-thinking questions," he said. 

Spending more time outside was an easy sell for students. 

"If I'm listening to something while being outside, it helps me focus better and I learn a lot," 9-year-old Ada Green said.

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