Noah Frost, 8, does a jumping-jack with his classmates on Wednesday. (Aaron Hinks photo)

White Rock students fuelling the brain with exercise

Eaton Arrowsmith adopts exercise routine

The teachers at White Rock’s Eaton Arrowsmith are providing fuel for the brain, and the students seem to enjoy every seven minutes of it.

Since the beginning of the year, students at the school have been participating in a high-intensity workout two to three times during the school day.

Officials invited Peace Arch News to watch one of the sessions Wednesday, in the midst of Brain Awareness Week.

The students divided the seven minutes into intervals of jumping-jacks, squats, push-ups, crunches, planks and running in place.

Following the workout, three students – out of breath – approached PAN to share their thoughts on the school’s pilot project.

“I like doing it because it’s helping my brain and it’s good exercise. It has made a lot of improvements for my brain,” Noah Frost, 8, told PAN.

The daily exercise, Noah said, improves his focus during his education time blocks and also “strengthens my weaknesses.”

Aiden Hass, 12, and his twin brother, Caihlem agreed that the daily activity helps them wake up in the morning, and both said they have made improvements in their school work.

“It makes me feel really good,” Aiden said.

“When we’re normally sitting down for half an hour at a time, it really feels good to do an exercise because I can stretch.”

Planking, Caihlem said, is his favourite part.

“It’s really hard to do, it’s challenging,” he noted, adding that he’s continuously improving his time.

Students in Grades K-12 at Eaton Arrowsmith – one of 100 schools that offer Arrowsmith programming–work to strengthen their cognitive weakness. The end goal is to transition the students into the public or private school system.

The White Rock school has 18 full-time students and eight part-time, and each student has a program tailored to their cognitive weakness, explained principal Kelsey Hanna.

“What we know from research is that students with learning disabilities have less active prefrontal cortexes than their non-learning disabled peers,” Hanna said. “It’s part of our brain that’s responsible for executive functioning, attention, impulsive control and reasoning.”

Research has shown, Hanna noted, that exercise can wake up that area of the brain. It can give people an attention boost and improve their cognitive ability.

“We’re finding that immediately after those breaks, the kids are more focused. They’re not groggy.”

Hanna explained that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) is a protein in the brain that acts like a fertilizer that’s released when people exercise.

“They’re working on strengthening their brains. We have to do this. It’s not a matter of if, it’s more of a matter of when,” Hanna said.

The project is being piloted at Eaton Arrowsmith’s White Rock location to see if it would make a fit in its other locations. Eaton Arrowsmith CEO Sarah Cohen said a group of Arrowsmith principals gave the seven-minute exercise a trial run.

Cohen, who practises the seven-minute routine with her family, said the students were told that the media would be visiting the school. She said the students were humbled, and excited to share how the program could help other people.

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Eaton Arrowsmith clear the classroom to make space for a seven-minute activity Wednesday. (Aaron Hinks photo)

Eaton Arrowsmith students hold a plank as part of their seven-minute exercise. (Aaron Hinks photo)

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