Get up and Move! Injecting Energy into the Classroom

By: Lauren DiPiero

From Kindergarten through college, students continuously struggle with spending hours on end sitting in classrooms. No matter how curious the student and how willing they are to learn, classrooms can easily become draining rather than energizing. This is not conducive to learning. As someone with experience in a Montessori style classroom as a young child and then with dynamic classrooms as an older student, I understand the benefits of making the classroom experience mobile instead of stationary. 

Restrictions on bathroom and water breaks and the expectation that students remain still and mostly silent during class time all hinder students’ learning. Whether a student is five or twenty years old, being restricted from leaving the room to use the bathroom or get a drink of water for a long period of time is unfair and inhumane. Teachers and professors might argue that if students are free to come and go as they choose, they will spend all of their time outside of class playing on their phones, talking with friends or just wandering around the hallways. Allowing students these freedoms does pose that risk, but it is preferable to the alternative. Also, if professors make students aware that the content of their classes is relevant for exams and projects, most students will  remain in class as much as possible. Remaining in class for the majority of the time should correlate with knowing what will appear on tests, quizzes, etc. When that is the case, students given the freedom will leave the room only when necessary. If nothing in the class is relevant, then it is difficult to blame someone for leaving for extended periods. However, that is rarely the case. 

Movement within the classroom itself is also beneficial for students’ learning and well-being. People should not sit still for extended periods of time. Doing so can create physical stiffness and complications along with mental exhaustion. Simply having rolling chairs so that students can move around not only promotes collaboration and discussion amongst the class but also breaks students out of the pattern of sitting still for excessively long periods and losing focus and motivation. Allowing for a one of two minute break for stretching during a particularly long but necessary exam or lecture also refreshes and rejuvenates students. Professors can also bring energy to a learning environment by having students walk outside for class on a particularly sunny or warm day. Some fear that students will lose focus because their environment has changed, but it is much more likely that spending time in the sun will lift their spirits and energize them in a way that allows for more constructive, passionate class discussion. 

Many traditional schools, including colleges, have a long history of believing that exerting control over students is the best way to cultivate an obedient culture of learning. While forcing students to remain still and quiet may promote obedience, obedience should never be the foundation of education. Every educational institution has the goal of ensuring that their students learn as much as they can and leave the school as the best versions of themselves. Since schools have such goals, they need to reexamine the aspects of school that truly promote the highest levels of learning and success. Allowing students the freedom to simply move is just one of those aspects and one that should be taken seriously.