TNCS Summer “Move It!” Camp Gets Kids Moving and Learning!

TNCS's new Kindergarten teacher/first-grade teacher also taught the Move It! summer camp

TNCS’s new Kindergarten teacher/first-grade teacher Teresa Jacoby also taught the Move It! summer camp

At The New Century School‘s Move It! camp, campgoers learned all about movement—how their own bodies move as well as some of the physics of how other things move—and they also moved, a lot. This ages 3–K 2-week summer camp emphasizing learning and physical activity through art, music, movement, and play was led by Teresa Jacoby, TNCS’s new for the 2014–2015 academic year Kindergarten/first-grade teacher. Mrs. Jacoby brings a wealth of knowledge, experience, and enthusiasm to the classroom, and TNCS is pleased to welcome her!

A former 3rd- and 4th-grade science teacher in the Baltimore City school system, this “self-proclaimed scientist” gears even her reading and art lessons toward science, and Move It! camp was no different. She designed the camp curriculum herself, and it becomes not just about expending some pent-up summertime energy but also a thoughtful way to incorporate scientific thinking into having fun. “The kids are so naturally curious; it’s nice to discuss [science] with them, and they like to talk about it,” said Mrs. Jacoby.

A typical class discussion starts with something the kids can relate to—their own bodies—and moves progressively outward from there to the world beyond. “We talked a lot about, ‘what is movement?’ and ‘what can we move on our bodies?’. I get the typical legs and arms response and then ask, ‘what about our faces?’ Do we move anything on our faces?’,” she recounts. She invites them to blink their eyes, smile, wiggle their eyebrows, etc. She also talks a good deal about deep, yogic breathing, which has the dual benefit of teaching them how to calm themselves while still continuing the exploration of body movement. “I teach them how to listen to their breath hit the back of their throats and fill into their lungs. They really worked hard to get this right and made a lot of progress,” said Mrs. Jacoby.

As the light starts to dawn and they begin to see that movement really is a continuous, perpetual process fundamental to life, she expands the perspective, and they talk about what we use our bodies to move, such as picking up objects and carrying them from one place to another. “We talk about what’s hard to move and why and what’s easy to move and why,” said Mrs. Jacoby. Next, the line of inquiry widens farther still. “What do we see outside that moves?” she asks. “Cars. Well how do cars move?” This leads into a discussion of wheels and how it’s easier to move something on wheels than to push it. The kids really benefit from this inquiry-based, hands-on approach. They are learning about movement while moving, which reinforces the learning but also makes it applicable and more real. Relevant knowledge is learned more effectively and efficiently.

But hang on—this is summer camp, and fun is supposed to be an integral part of that. Move It! camp cannot be accused of skimping on the fun! With the particular focus on physical activity built in to this camp’s theme, Mrs. Jacoby really gets the kids moving with ample time either in the outdoor playground or on the Gerstung equipment and Imagination Playground located in TNCS’s gym, The Lingo Leap. Campgoers also get “water play day” every Friday, which includes playing with water toys outside and running in the sprinkler. Weather permitting, campgoers might also take neighborhood walks.

At TLL, Mrs. Jacoby sets up obstacle courses with the Gerstung equipment that the kids navigate while carrying balloons, to develop an extra layer of skill. “They do such a great job,” she said, “and it’s delightful to see how hard they work to walk on the balance beam, for example. It’s really fun to watch them practice those gross motor skills.” She also incorporates the parachute into movement time, which she is again able to tie back to physics, with observations about how the parachute behaves differently under different circumstances, such as with fast versus slow movements.

This camper has a lot going on! He walks across the balance beam without falling off, while delicately carrying a balloon between two rackets without popping or dropping it! What skill!

This camper has a lot going on! He walks across the balance beam without falling off, while delicately carrying a balloon between two rackets without popping or dropping it! What skill!

Other fun ways to get them moving include playing badminton with balloons and learning and performing funny songs and dances. Songs like “A Tooty Ta Ta,” a hipper, updated take on the “Hokey Pokey,” get them isolating one movement at a time, then building progressively on each movement until by the end they are wriggling in time to the music with thumbs up, elbows back, knees together, feet apart, bottoms up, and tongues out! (Picture playing Twister to “Gangnam Style,” or similar.) “The kids did a fabulous job getting all that together while singing along and turning in a circle with their eyes closed!” said Mrs. Jacoby. See below for the lyrics to “A Tooty Ta Ta”—your kids will be thrilled to do this with you!

“I really, really enjoyed camp Move It!,” said Mrs. Jacoby. “I got to meet some of the students I’ll have next year, which is so nice. This camp has been a lot of fun.”

Those breathing exercise sure work some relaxing magic!

Those breathing exercise sure work some relaxing magic!

A Tooty Ta Ta

Thumbs up

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!

Thumbs up, Elbows back, Knees together, Feet apart, Bottoms up, Head back, Tongue out

A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta!
A tooty-ta, a tooty-ta, a tooty ta-ta! 

Exercising That Mind–Body Connection

New for the 2012–2013 school year, The New Century School provides a gymnasium for physical education! In keeping with TNCS’s progressive, forward-thinking style, though, this gym is no ordinary gym. The Lingo Leap (TLL), as it is now known officially, integrates physical exercise with cognitive development—moving and learning!

TLL’s philosophy is that brains work more efficiently when the body is also engaged, and there’s plenty of hard science to back up this notion. In fact, neuroimaging shows that during movement, more brain areas are lit up, meaning that more of the brain is active and in use. Why not take advantage of this “powered-up” state and give the brain something to do with its extra energy? Let’s face it—one of the most challenging tasks we can give our hungry brains is learning a new language.

The Lingo Leap is run by Amy Pothong

TLL Director Amy Pothong

So, TLL focuses on multiple language acquisition; currently, yoga, dance, and other movement classes are being offered for ages 2 and up (including for interested parents) in your choice of English, French, or Spanish with plans to add classes in Mandarin and Arabic soon. TNCS students, by the way, get regular phys ed at the gym in Spanish. TLL Director Amy Pothong says that “when [students] are totally immersed, they speak like natives.” Although this idea might sound revolutionary, it’s actually “getting back to the basics.” “As we get older,” says Pothong, we must get more socially standardized, which can hinder our natural ability to learn through movement.” Babies, she points out, largely communicate through gestures, which are a very basic form of movement and hearken back to the earliest human communication by our ancient ancestors.

The connection, then, between bodily movement and thought conveyance is well established in our being. Two main schools of thought have emerged to explore how we can optimize this connection to actually learn to communicate better (or at least in more than one language). First was Total Physical Response (TPR), developed in the mid-1960s by Dr. James Asher as a method of learning a second language. Asher noted that the conventional approach to learning second languages differed dramatically from how infants learn their first language. Infants learn to communicate by internalizing language, a process of protracted listening and absorbing. TPR is a technique that replicates that process for learning second languages and beyond by giving a command, modeling the action described in the command, and then having the student imitate that action. Students are not initially asked to speak, but to comprehend and obey the command. Understanding is at the root of language acquisition, according to Asher. This makes a lot of sense when you consider how babies learn to respond to increasingly complex utterances before ever verbalizing a thought.

Language acquisition expert Stephen Krashen has found this method very effective. Read his article on TPR here. He says, “A constraint on all activities that we might consider is that they be interesting for both the teacher and the students; it is difficult to fake enthusiasm.” Enter TLL with engaging movement classes for kids plus their parents!

The second school of thought is known as SPARK. SPARK was put forth by Dr. John J. Ratey, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. Exercise, contends Ratey, dramatically enhances circulation to the brain and encourages synaptic growth, thereby priming the brain for improved function—providing the “spark,” in other words. Improvements in function include both mental health as well as cognitive ability (think, learning languages at TLL!). A significant corollary to SPARK theory is that exercise also improves academic performance after exercise, whereas TPR focuses on learning during movement. Read more about Dr. Ratey’s findings and about his latest book, Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, on his website. (His wasn’t the first, incidentally: Plato argued for the ideal education to incorporate physical training in The Republic more than 2,000 years ago.)

Gerstung equipment can be moved and reconfigured in endless ways

Gerstung Movement Education equipment at TLL

About that physical training, TLL features state-of-the-art Gerstung gym equipment that “[encourages] children to use their own innate curiosity to stimulate movement. Created by Siegfried Gerstung, a world-renowned educator, Gerstung equipment is not only customizable and moveable to provide “movement education” in three dimensions, but the Gerstung company is locally owned, with that commitment to community shared by TNCS and TLL.

Director Pothong and her staff are themselves polylingual, and instructors are native speakers of the language they are teaching in. Pothong is Thai and may even hold Thai cooking classes at TLL next year. It’s a “multipurpose space,” she says, “that encourages social, mental, verbal, and physical development.” (And culinary!)

Registering for classes is a snap on TLL website–make the jump to polylingualism!

TMCS students stretch and move, following instructions given in Spanish

TMCS students participate in Spanish gym class