Breaking Boundaries: How South Orange Maplewood is Transforming Classrooms with Action Based Learning

Michael Mack started as a 5th-grade teacher at Clinton Elementary School in 2011. Since 2016, Mr. Mack has integrated Action Based Learning into his students' daily routines. Mr. Mack is currently teaching science, social studies, and mathematics to his 5th-grade class, where they not only learn about those subjects but also the importance of moving their bodies!



Discovering the Kinesthetic Classroom Movement

On 2016, with the assistance of one of Clinton's Physical Education teachers, Mrs. Jordyn Lachmund, the school district was awarded the Carol M. White PEP Grant, This exciting opportunity ignited a passion for action-based learning within the district, prompting a search for a pilot program participant. Mr. Mack was selected as one of the grant recipients. While other schools in the district had introduced kinesthetic labs, Mack piloted the implementation of a fully kinesthetic classroom.

Implementing the Kinesthetic Classroom

Mack began implementing the kinesthetic classroom at Clinton Elementary School. The classroom was equipped with pedal desks, striders, minion chairs, and various exercise equipment such as snowboarders, ski machines, climbing boxes, and planks. These tools allowed students to engage in physical activity while learning. The implementation process involved setting up the classroom with the new equipment and creating a schedule that incorporated movement breaks and active learning techniques.

“As a special education teacher, I find the equipment to be incredibly beneficial for our students. I've seen a significant increase in focus and engagement when students are utilizing it. For our students who constantly need to stand, move around, or fidget, the equipment provides a healthy outlet for their energy while still allowing them to stay on task.”

Melissa Leland, Special Education

“At first, I was concerned with the distractions or having students argue about which piece of equipment they wanted to use for that day. I found that creating a rotational system for my students would help alieve that factor.”

Michael Mack, Clinton Elementary


Overcoming Hesitations and Challenges

The idea of implementing a kinesthetic classroom can be daunting. Finding time to adapt to the new teaching approach while managing their already demanding workload. The requirement of collecting data to evaluate the effectiveness of the kinesthetic classroom also added to the apprehension. However, Mack's enthusiasm and determination helped him overcome these obstacles. He recognized the potential benefits for his students and was determined to create a positive change in their learning experience.

Expanding Access to Action-Based Learning

“Honestly, I think for the students it’s overall less distracting because I noticed, less kids getting up to sharpen pencils, getting tissues, getting up to go to the bathroom going to get a drink of water like all those little avoidance techniques that they use.”

After the pandemic, much of the equipment was distributed throughout the school to other classrooms to provide access to more students. As the year began with the opening of the new 5th-grade wing at the school, Mack and his co-teacher, Melissa Leland, applied for another grant from the South Orange Maplewood Achieve Foundation to equip their new classroom with action-based learning equipment. This grant provided new standing desks, pedal desks, and strider desks for their current students.

Michael Mack, Clinton Elementary


The Future of ABL and Clinton Elementary

South Orange Maplewood District is committed to providing ongoing professional development for its educators to ensure the successful implementation of Action Based Learning into their schools.

A huge thank you to Michael Mack and Melissa Leland for sharing their story and continuing to inspire us to improve the health, wellness, and education for children around the world! To hear more about this story, to request more information on this program, or share a your own story about ABL contact

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