Brains get a workout at Montvale Brain Gym

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By Christa Linginfelter
For Blount Today

Does your brain need a workout?

According to Montvale Elementary Kindergarten classes, the answer is "Yes."

After months of research and traveling to other schools in the area, kindergarten teachers Jennifer Graves, Jill Sharp, Joyce Robinson and Leslie Walker at Montvale decided their students would greatly benefit from a program called Brain Gym. The program was developed in 1997, is a registered trademark of the Educational Kinesiology Foundation and uses body movements to focus on three dimensions.

The Laterality Dimension addresses the ability to use both eyes, both ears, and the whole body together to work in the midfield. Midline movements aid the learner in connecting hemispheric function and improve coordination of both sides of the body. They help students with articulation, reading, writing and hearing. Some movements suggested are called cross crawl, lazy 8s, double doodle, neck rolls and belly breathing.

The second dimension is the Centering Dimension. This dimension addresses the ability to cross the dividing line between emotional content and abstract thought. True learning takes place when information is meaningful. The Brain Gym movements relax the system and enable students to organize themselves and their thoughts. Some movements suggested are called brain buttons, the thinking cap, the energy yawn and hook-ups.

The third dimension is the Focus Dimension. This dimension addresses the ability to cross the participation midline which connects the back (occipital) and frontal lobes. Students who are under-focused are labeled as "inattentive," "language delayed" or "hyperactive." Students who are over- focused try too hard. Brain Gym movements unblock focus and allow students to multi-task, have a better understanding of self and aids in comprehension. Some movements suggested are called the owl, arm activation, foot flex, and the calf pump.

Just like any other gym, there is equipment needed, so there is some expense in creating a Brain Gym. For example some of the equipment needed are balance beams, small trampolines, crawl through tunnel, stilts, crawl gates, rainbow ribbon wands, instructional books, grab balls and mats. That’s when the teachers put their own brains together and applied for a grant which was provided by Blount County Education Foundation. They received the grant for their program, which they called "Making Connections: Learning Through Movement," and were able to start their Brain Gym. The grant allowed them to purchase over $800 in equipment.

To join the Brain Gym, you just have to be a kindergarten student. Students attend Brain Gym every day for about an hour and the teachers say the results are dramatic.

"This is the first year we have implemented our Learning Through Movement Lab," says Jill Sharp. "We have been able to observe significant improvements in our children’s education process -- such as self-assurance, learning ease, concentration and increased positive attitude toward school. Certain discipline issues have decreased. The lab also assists in identifying challenging areas in the children’s learning process. It is an exciting, positive addition to our kindergarten curriculum, and it helps make learning fun."

One parent volunteer, Robert Drumm, observed, "It is so much fun to see how they develop. The first day they couldn’t even walk across a balance beam and now they can stand on one foot and balance."

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