By Kristin Kusanovich
Senior Lecturer, Santa Clara University
The Child Studies Program at Santa Clara University (formerly known as the Liberal Studies Program) prepares undergraduate students for careers and graduate programs in teaching and child centered institutions. Students majoring in Child Studies will go on to lead classrooms, schools, districts, advocate for children, youth and families and work in non-profits, corporations, public institutions and private practice, serving in a multitude of capacities including but not limited to, counselors, child law specialists, community center leaders and all fields involving children and youth.
In early October, students who are currently enrolled in a course entitled Movement Education, taught by Professor Kristin Kusanovich, visited Saint Clare’s during an afternoon class to observe a typical slice of the day for students at that neighboring school. They formed teams of three to four students and divided up among 1st through 8th grade classrooms (kindergarteners were enjoying naptime). They were there to be reminded of just what K-8th feels like and to see the children in their natural school environment. They were asked to enjoy the lessons, observe the interactions and notice the different interests and developmental abilities within the grade they were witnessing.
They were able to see how the teaching style is appropriate for the ages of children in the class and how each class has its own ‘personality.’ They observed all kinds of interactive teaching, from discussion to cooperative learning, to creative projects, to more sedentary times of test-taking, quiet study, and writing.
During the Movement Education course SCU students have been imagining how more deliberate uses of kinesthetic learning, that is, intentional uses of bodily movement for a specific purpose, might be used as a pedagogical strategy in the daily lessons and programs of their future classrooms and work environments. Movement has been proven to boost brain efficiency, memory retention, self-confidence, mood and therefore positive classroom behaviors and of course health, wellness and fitness levels. But unfortunately, youth today are moving less whether in physical education (adult structured, facilitated) or play-based (child-structured) activities. Students should have 60 minutes a day of exercise that is fun and promotes a love of lifelong fitness and enjoyment. Play is also important as a site for learning, mental health, processing, socializing and expression. Play, such as what happens at recess and lunch-time after eating, and at home, hopefully, is absolutely critical for healthy child development. We are focused on physical education, which is one of the central subjects for multi-subject credential teachers of elementary schools. Physical education involves structured play, games, dance, and after skills acquisition, yes, sports. Sometimes the classroom teacher can be a part of that investment on the part of all school stakeholders to create those opportunities for stress release, expression, fun, and learning that movement based activities bring, whether adult or child-designed.
The culminating project for the university students is to create a multi-step movement education lesson plan that meets the national and state Physical Education standards, contains tasks, cues and challenges to differentiate learning for every student, and allows for a proper warm-up, focusing and reflective moment at the end of the lesson. They will work with 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th graders this year. Their ability to practice their teaching is critical to their own self-knowledge and growth. In mid-November, four classes of students from Saint Clare’s will go on a walking field trip to Santa Clara University to have a one-hour experience in movement education, taught by these teams of future teachers.