40% of Estonian schoolchildren go to a School in Motion

This year, 38 new schools from all across Estonia joined the education programme Schools in Motion. By now, despite the corona pandemic, more than 40% of pupils of Estonian general education schools go to a School in Motion.

The education programme Schools in Motion that started five years ago with ten schools has now expanded to as many as 148 schools with a total of 63,000 students. To balance the negative impact of the corona pandemic on pupils’ mental and physical health, the closer focus of the programme is on diversifying distance learning and integrating outdoor learning in school life.

The research-based programme initiated by the University of Tartu Move Lab has turned its attention to the COVID-19-induced extraordinary situation in education. “This is not an easy time for schools: the wish to provide quality education constantly clashes with changing circumstances, social distancing requirements and new forms of study,” said the head of the Move Lab and Lecturer in Health Education of the University of Tartu Merike Kull.

In active cooperation with Schools in Motion, the Move Lab develops new solutions to support both face-to-face learning at school and distance learning at home. One of the aims is to increase the share of outdoor learning. “Outdoor learning allows us to get two birds with one stone. Coronavirus spreads less easily outside and children manage to keep a safe distance better. Moreover, research has shown that outdoor learning fosters both the acquisition of learning content as well as the integration of subjects and creating connections. On top of that, much more physical activity is involved in outdoor learning,” said Kull.

Recent studies from all over the world have shown that distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made children’s lives lonelier and more sedentary, increasing mood disorders and health risks. Schools in Motion are also looking for solutions to this problem. “Schools want teachers to bring more diversity into distance learning assignments. Learning integrated with playful activities and exercise, small active breaks and going outdoors to learn, even if it is just to listen to a podcast, is one way to solve this problem,” said Kull.

On 22 February, the schools joining the programme this year will meet at an online idea seminar organised by the Move Lab. “We will not get away from distance learning any time soon, and the first meeting gives the new Schools in Motion a good chance to experience a physically active online seminar,” said Maarja Kalma, the head of the Schools in Motion network.

Schools in Motion is aiming to make physical activity a natural part of school days and the school culture. Opportunities for physical activity during classes, recess and on the way to school support health, learning and the joy of learning, so the Move Lab seeks ways to create these opportunities in cooperation with schools.

From 2020 to 2023, the development and implementation of the Schools in Motion programme takes place in the framework of the project “Increasing physical activity of schoolchildren” funded by the European Economic Area programme.

Further information Merike Kull, THead of the University of Tartu Move Lab, 517 6949, merike.kull@ut.ee

Sandra Sommer
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