Compton Elementary School in Cobb County Georgia has recently implemented a K-2nd Action Based Learning Lab as part of an initiative to impact the whole child, and to create optimal learning environments for each and every student they serve. Principal, Beth Lair is leading the transformation to move beyond traditional learning, and into the world of Action Based Learning, school wide! ABL is based on brain research that supports the connection between movement and learning. The implementation of the ABL Lab is a team effort, which includes two key staff members serving as Lab coordinators, working to make sure the ABL Lab is fully functional and the teachers are trained in Action Based Learning concepts, strategies, and Lab management. Here's their story!
How did ABL get started at Compton Elementary?
The initiative began as a way to do more for students who may not have adequate time for movement, whether in or out of school. Having some experience pairing movement and learning while at another Cobb County school, Still Elementary, PE instructors Leanne Flanagan and Patrick Stevens, began looking for ways to implement Action Based Learning as a methodology in the classroom after joining the staff at Compton Elementary. The two were given enthusiastic approval by proponent principal Lair.
Research led Flanagan to delve into the concept of Movement and Learning and the scientific brain-based research that says the brain is optimized for grasping concepts when the body moves, even in low intensity ways that can be carried out inside a classroom! Both Flanagan and Stevens were keenly aware that some students lack the pre-kindergarten skills, like cross lateralization, which research tells us is critical in order to advance in reading and math once moving to the next grade level. These critical developmental milestones may unfortunately go unnoticed, and the lab is a way to strengthen and develop these areas.
What is the purpose of the Lab?
The purpose of the ABL Lab is quite simple- to prepare the brain for learning! Each station allows the child to engage in purposeful movement according to the foundation being worked on (Cross Lateralization, Body in Space, Balance, Visual Development, Rhythm, Tactile Learning, Motor Skills, Hand/Eye/Foot Coordination, Physical Fitness, Cardiovascular Health, Problem Solving, Self Management/Mindfulness).How do the 12 Foundations support learning?
Strengthening these foundations directly correlates with the student's cognitive skills, such as reading and writing. Research shows as the brain and body begin to work together to process motor sequences and patterns such as rolling over, crawling, walking and jumping, the brain creates the pathways used for processing sequences in reading and math.
There are 3 basic human motor movements- rolling, crawling/walking, and jumping. These directly correspond with the way that information travels in the brain; side to side across the corpus callosum, back to front across the motor cortex, and up & down from the bottom to the top of the brain. The brain uses its motor patterns as the framework for other learning. Proper development and remediation of these systems are critical to a child’s ability to learn!
What was the first step in implementing ABL at Compton Elementary?
Determined to provide an academic advantage as well as provide a much needed break from sitting all day, Leanne and Patrick took some simple movement activities and ABL strategies and brought them to Mrs. Lair - all agreed this was exactly what they wanted for their students. A couple weeks after implementing a few basic techniques like "brain breaks," it was remarkable how the students were more attentive and even better behaved because of the movement activities. To more fully integrate purposeful movement throughout the school, Flanagan reached out to Action Based Learning. A grant helped fund their K-2nd Grade ABL Lab, which included equipment and instructional materials, specifically designed to focus on the brain/body connection, through intentional movement! The Lab allows students to work on all functions and strengthen these critical areas of development such as vestibular, balance, and manipulative skills.
"It is shown that early movement skills impact learning," says Mrs. Lair. "We incorporate 'brain breaks' and morning movement each day. Two of our 1st grade teachers use action games during instructional time. The kids are loving the option to move and learn from sight words to math facts."
As Principal, Mrs. Lair has high standards for Compton Elementary. "We hope to be a school that goes above and beyond to make a huge impact on our students, community and school district." By becoming an ABL partner, the Compton team is hoping to improve the overall well-being of every student. The focus remains on helping students thrive. In preparation for the 2019-2020 school year, Compton Elementary will host the first Action Based Learning Summit designed specifically to train educators on the science behind purposeful movement, "brain booster" classroom activities and how to successfully implement and manage Action Based Learning strategies school wide. The ABL Summit is open to all Georgia K-12 educators this summer, July 15th -16th!
Compton Elementary is quickly becoming a model school for 21st century educational practices in the state of Georgia. The recognition comes well deserved, as passion and dedication for their students remains the driving force behind their innovation. A huge thank you to principal Beth Lair, and ABL coordinators Leanne Flanagan and Patrick Stevens for sharing your story.