Brain Development Program Helps Kids with Focus and LearningIf you walk into the gym at St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Fort Wayne, you might see kids tossing small beanbags into the air while counting. Others are skipping, jumping or using a balance board. A few students follow beads on a rope with their eyes.What at first glance might appear to be gym class, is actually brain development exercises that are part of a program steeped in brain science called Minds-in-Motion. The activities, which are set up in stations so students can quickly rotate through them, are sometimes called “yoga for the brain,” and range from eye exercises that focus on a moving object to full body exercises that involve balance and coordination.After some of the teachers attended training for the program, St. Peter’s began using Minds-in-Motion three times a week with their kindergarten and first grade students. Minds-in-Motion is inexpensive, only takes 15 minutes a day, and is steeped in research on inner ear functionality and the vestibular (balance) part of the brain.
According to Candace Meyer, who founded Minds-in-Motion, the information behind the program is based off research from NASA. After NASA discovered that astronauts who returned to earth had trouble with balance and coordination, NASA developed a program that helped astronauts regain their coordination by exercising the vestibular part of the brain.The methods NASA used have been translated into research for children, along with exercises and activities to improve their vestibular system. According to kindergarten teacher Holly Ehle, kids aren’t getting vestibular stimulation due to increased screen time and lack of time playing outside.Through Minds-in-Motion, students participate in a variety of activities for 50 seconds including tossing a bean bag, using a balance board, skipping, crawling over and under small hurdles, walking up stairs backwards and doing a puppy crawl.
These exercises force kids to use their brains in different ways, by crossing the midline of the brain and using different parts of the brain at one time.The program has been especially helpful for kids with sensory processing disorders.The program has appeal. Other schools visit St. Peter’s Lutheran School to observe how it works. Elkhart County, Indiana now has over 40 schools participating in Minds-in-Motion due to the program’s success.“I like we’re doing something on the cutting edge,” Mrs. Ehle adds. “I feel like the student are so focused. The wiggles are out. It takes care of all of that.”Brittany Brune, the first grade teacher at St. Peter’s, agrees. “The difference that I see is that they’re glued to me. They’re focused and ready to go. It makes my job easier.”But it isn’t just the research that convincing, it’s seeing the improvements in student focus and learning.
“There’s a student who had huge sensory issues and it was really challenging for him to do certain things, including even wear socks,” Mrs. Ehle says. “It was painful to watch him do certain tasks when he began the Minds-in-Motion program. He couldn’t track past midline. But he’s been in it for two years and now he can skip, wear socks, and do other tasks he was unable to do before.”Students with sensory and processing disorders seem to especially benefit from the Minds-in-Motion program. The program, which uses mostly inexpensive equipment, can be started with a hundred dollars. Both teachers agree: the fifteen minutes they give to the program, they get back in more attentive students.Mrs. Ehle, who advises teachers to read the research behind the program says, “We would recommend it. All we know is we send kids through it and when they come back, they’re on top of it for math. It’s essential to get the research behind it. The impact is way more powerful than how it looks.”