As a visionary in so many ways, Dr. Maria Montessori was one of the first educators to recognize how exercise and physical fitness can contribute to a successful learning environment. Dr. Montessori believed in educating the whole child, with movement being a paramount part of that education.
“Movement, or physical activity, is thus an essential factor in intellectual growth, which depends upon the impressions received from outside. Through movement we come in contact with external reality, and it is through these contacts that we eventually acquire even abstract ideas.” – Dr. Maria Montessori, The Secrets of Childhood
How Exercise Improves Learning
Studies have shown that physical exercise can improve learning. According to Dr. John J. Ratey, an associate clinical professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, exercise can boost learning in several ways.
Through its invigorating effects, exercise improves alertness in students, making them more attentive and motivated to learn. It also promotes more nerve cells to bind with each other and serves to generate new nerve cells in the brain, which helps increase the capacity to learn.
Exercise and Sports, the Montessori Way
Dr. Montessori believed that physical movement helps connect students with their world and adding movement to the education process allows students to better retain information.
Montessori teachers seek to find physical activities that focus on collaboration, not competition.
This is in line with the Montessori philosophy that encourages students to think independently, while also showing consideration to others.
Even in competitive sports, there are ways to apply Montessori philosophy by encouraging collaboration instead of scoring. For example, with sports like volleyball, teams can be rewarded for keeping rallies going. In basketball, teams can be rewarded where the ball is passed among every player on a possession, and every player has an opportunity to take shots.
Physical Exercise at Home
Outside of the classroom, the Montessori approach can be applied to many fun activities that are appropriate for almost any age.
What kid doesn’t love playing with a hula hoop? Obstacle courses are another great way to get kids moving and help them develop better motor and coordination skills. Even regular walks and bike rides can help improve posture, develop endurance, and improve balance.
Yoga at La Prima Casa Montessori
At La Prima Casa Montessori, we implement Dr. Montessori’s approach by offering our students ample opportunities to get moving throughout the day.
One of the ways we help bring movement into the classroom is through regular yoga sessions. Yoga is an amazing exercise that brings movement, breathing and mindfulness together. It helps children become more coordinated and balanced, which is important for both fine and gross motor skills. Kids learn how to be still, focused and self-aware, how to breathe more efficiently and relax their body.