Walk, Listen, and Learn:
The Walking Classroom
Guest blog post by Laura Fenn
“My students could do this!”
That thought came to me about 5 years ago when I got home from school after a particularly rough day and decided to clear my head with an energizing walk. I grabbed my MP3 player and started listening to a podcast about how volcanoes work. I could feel my mood lifting, I was learning something, and I was getting some desperately needed exercise. And that’s when it hit me: My 5th graders could do this!
I wrote a grant that night for a class set of MP3 players, and soon my students and I were regularly walking during the regular school day (not PE or recess!) listening to podcasts that I had downloaded from the Internet. The podcasts were somewhat related to the curriculum, but my main objective was truly just to get my students some desperately needed fresh air and exercise (recess and PE had been cut dramatically).
It became very apparent very quickly what a powerful learning tool the walk, listen and learn method was. All of my students were eager to walk and listen everyday (they just thought they were “getting out” of classwork), and what I soon discovered was that my “smart kids” weren't always the best listeners. For the first time, my students with different learning styles were able to show that they were smart too. After an educational walk, children with dyslexia, autism, and especially my ADHD students started to participate in class discussions and brought incredible insight to the lessons, often surprising their peers by showing just how smart they really were—they simply never had the opportunity to learn this way before.
The Walking Classroom.” The Walking Classroom is currently for 5th graders (4th grade is in development and will be ready for the 2013-14 school year) and the program contains a school year’s worth of custom-written podcasts directly aligned to the Common Core. Each podcast is about 15 minutes long and all the podcasts are supported by extensive lesson plans that include comprehension quizzes. Students improve their physical, mental and academic health while walking, listening and learning.
Today The Walking Classroom is used by thousands of students in 16 states, and the feedback from the teachers and students is always the same: they LOVE it. Schools can purchase the program directly, or if funds are not available, teachers can fill out a brief grant application on our website and we will work like mad to get them a donated set.
If you’d like to “test drive” The Walking Classroom, 10 podcasts and lesson plans are available for free download from LearnNC, a program run by the University of North Carolina’s School of Education.
Enjoy, and Happy Trails!
Laura Fenn, MS Ed, was a classroom teacher for 10 years. She is the co-founder and Executive Director of The Walking Classroom Institute, an educational nonprofit created BY a teacher FOR teachers. The program is dedicated to providing teachers with an easy to implement tool that improves the health and education of students.