(Part one of two)
Blackduck students in grades K-2 are participating in a new "boost up" program called S.M.A.R.T. This program was researched, designed and tested by the Minnesota Learning Resource Center in Minneapolis. The program consists of many types of physical activities that the students get to participate in for 30 minutes a day. These activities activate the brain stem where learning readiness skills are developed.
Last year, two teachers from the elementary attended a four day teacher workshop on the S.M.A.R.T. program and how to implement it in their classrooms. The two teachers were very impressed and put it in action for their two classrooms last year. It was meant to be a trial and if they received positive results, their hopes were to get more teachers onboard so that all students in grades K-2 could benefit from the learning readiness skills the program enhances.
The results were phenomenal! Students enjoyed and asked for more time in the "S.M.A.R.T. room." Parents had noticed positive changes in their children's attention spans at home. The two teachers trained in this program noticed significant gains in behavior and attentive skills in their students. Reading gains were also very positive! One teacher had a child exit out of a modified phonics course and entered into his/her own grade level. The two teachers also noticed fine and gross motor enhancement. Some teachers untrained in S.M.A.R.T. noticed especially the fine motor control in writing that the young students engaged in the program possessed.
The results of this cannot be solely pinpointed to the program alone. Blackduck has many great teachers and services to help students succeed. Regardless of knowing exactly what made the students gain readiness last year or not, the two teachers previously trained felt it was enough proof to get more teachers and students participating in the program boost up enrichment program.
As the year went on, interest in the this program came from all directions. Teachers wanted to be trained in S.M.A.R.T., students wanted to be able to participate in the fun play-like activities involved in it and parents became curious about what the program was as their children came home speaking of the fun activities they were able to do in the S.M.A.R.T. room. One year later, we now have all our K-2 students participating in it to boost up program.
The object of this boost up program is to enhance readiness skills students need to be successful in the classroom. The program is a multi-sensory approach to learning. It focuses on enhancing and developing the physiological and neurological readiness skills needed for children to learn. Students participate in 30 minutes of physical activity that involves balancing on a balance beam, jumping on rebounders, spinning in many different forms, fine and gross motor activities, visual eye-tracking and teaming activities and more.
Many students in this new age of fast paced life, video games and television entertainment are coming to school missing vital neurological links to learning how to read, compute and so forth. The students come to school "ready" with their classroom supplies, friends and a smile on their face. Many of these students who have become less physically and more stationary behind a t.v. are starting to retain infant reflexes that should not be retained. These reflexes can make it almost impossible for a student to sit in a chair without falling out of it. They can make a students not be able to cross over their body to simply reach for a pencil at their table or desk. These reflexes can also block the eyes abilities to follow words or letters in a straight line. They can make eye-teaming difficult so that the student sees double images or simply skips over words in a sentence or letters in an alphabet.
The program is designed to help infant reflexes disappear and to help strengthen muscles in the eyes to help students follow words better in books. It is all handed to the kids in a play-like fashion. They do 30 minutes of balancing/spinning/and reflex activities that force their body to move in directions that with time eliminate the infant reflexes. The kids do not even notice they are "working." During their 30 minutes of boost up time they listen to music, work in a team with friends and do many fun activities.
Blackduck Elementary teachers are very excited that all the students in grades K-2 are now involved in this program. It will be very interesting to watch these kids as they begin to take multiple tests for our state. We hope to continue helping our students to have some of the best test scores in our area. Many people have asked why we do not do S.M.A.R.T. with students older than second grade. The program has shown to enhance readiness skills up to about age 8 (second grade). After second grade, the readiness skills are normally fully developed.
(Next week a list of some of the activities students are doing in S.M.A.R.T.)