Action Based Learning Lab - Jefferson Elementary, OK


New lab at Jefferson Elementary brings motion into education


Learning is not confined to a room with rows of desks and a whiteboard at the front of the room.

This statement isn’t groundbreaking, but most education takes place in this exact setting.

A new learning lab at Jefferson Elementary hopes to bring more movement into the educational experience.

The school officially opened its Action Based Learning Lab on Sept. 22 with a group of educators who helped make the lab possible and students showing how the lab equipment worked.

Nan Chuchman, the school’s physical education teacher, first wrote the grant for the lab.

She told the group that Jefferson had been accepted to the program six years ago. An Oklahoma non-profit called Schools for Healthy Lifestyles provided equipment, lessons, and staff training to Jefferson before the lab was finished.

“When classes come into the lab they are partnered up with another student, and they spend about 30 to 40 seconds at each section, then they switch,” Chuchman said.

She said the goal is to let students work on collaboration and increasing their physical activity with academics.

Students climbed up and down ramps, practiced log rolls, and used action desks which would let a student read while still moving.

Dana Chambers from Schools for Healthy Lifestyles said the organization has 29 labs throughout the state and it works with 70 schools across the state providing resources for physical education, healthy living, and wellness education.

She presented some of the research behind the lab activities.

“When they’re not moving their brains go cold and they stop learning at the highest level. When they’re moving, that brain is lit up and ready to learn,” Chambers said.

Her favorite piece of equipment at the lab is the moonwalker, one of the activity desks.

“It basically allows the student to do movement with their legs, gliding along,” Chambers said.

There is also a board on the moonwalker where students can attach worksheets or other materials to work on while they move.

Third-grader Adelyn Jones said her favorite was the snowboarder.

“You hold on and you try to swing yourself,” Jones said. “Then that board moves a lot.”

Fifth-grader Bethany Farthing added that while the snowboarder looks like it is all leg movement, arms actually get the biggest workout.

Her two favorite pieces of equipment were the moonwalker and the snowboarder.

“It’s really fun,” Farthing said about the lab. “You couldn’t do that normally because you can’t run and do your homework at the same time.”

A mat at the from of the lab had a pathway map that looked like a figure eight by following different pathways on the map, students can “draw” any letter or shape.

During the opening, one of the educators and one of the students took turns spelling different words and challenging each other to guess what they were spelling.

[Pictured below is Norman Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Nick Migliorino trying out the snowboarder with student Bethany Farthing.]

“We also love the figure eight map. It’s academics for the students but it also allows the students to calm themselves naturally by walking the figure eight pattern,” Chambers said. “It also works with them being able to focus visually.”

Farthing said she likes the figure eight as well and has spelled her name and some other bigger words.

“I can walk the figure eight while reading because its repetitive but you get use to it,” Farthing said.

Farthing also liked how most of the equipment had a “second level,” like a walking mat on the floor directing students to walk in increasingly difficult patterns. Once the students mastered it on the ground, they could try it out on the ramps.

Chambers said much of the lab equipment has multiple components like the map.

“At first glance, people think ‘oh, this is really good for ADD students and ADHD students’ and it is, because it does things like cross the midline and give them those extra physical activity breaks,” Chambers said. “But even … high-academic performing students fit points in their day where their brain shuts down, so this gives them the opportunity to be even more successful in the classroom.”