Emotional and physical safety are the foundation for all learning and success. Because our communities have experienced increased trauma to varying degrees this year, a focus on student well-being is particularly essential to accelerating learning these coming months and beyond. As such, we must first address Maslow before focusing on Bloom to improve student well-being and outcomes, decrease disciplinary issues, increase engagement, and accelerate student learning.
LEAs should prioritize four areas: identifying basic needs, recognizing and responding to trauma, supporting social-emotional well-being, and incorporating movement to boost cognitive development.
Research shows that before academic and cognitive goals can be met, learners’ core needs must first be met or addressed.
The pandemic has caused widespread trauma (personal, vicarious, collective, and historical). Even under normal circumstances, two-thirds of children in the country have experienced a traumatic event by the age of 16, according to the National Child Traumatic Stress Network. For learning to take place, educators must help address trauma.
Social-emotional well-being does not exist in a vacuum; it is part of the learning experience in all school spaces and it is closely intertwined with academic success. Since students spend most of their waking time at school and engaged in school work, think about what needs to be part of the school day. As you set your priorities for the year, Turnaround for Children offers a new take on the 3 Rs (relationships, routines, and resilience) as an important way to reduce stress and improve well-being for students.
The evidence linking cognitive development and movement is profound. (See here, here, here, here, here, and here.) In fact, movement is probably one of the most effective means we have of improving our brain functioning. Moving our bodies creates new neural pathways that may be critical to improving attention, academic performance, memory and more. Children need opportunities to move so they can learn.
Even though the research is clear, students spend a vast amount of time sitting rather than moving. Improving student academic outcomes and well-being may be as easy as including more exercise throughout the day. Even a 10-minute walk before school has significant results. And while a PE block is a start, when reimagining school, consider intentional movement throughout the day as part of the academic platter.