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Too cold to play outside? How one company is reinventing recess

The GoNoodle website provided teachers and classroom-chained children a series of short videos that encourage kids to get up and move with the ultimate goal of improving attention spans and class behavior.

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An education website that features “indoor recess mashups” is seeing an increase in traffic as more children are stuck in classrooms during winter weather.

GoNoodle’s CEO, Scott McQuigg says that his site has seen a 20 percent increase in usage for the month of January which he attributes to cold weather across the country.

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GoNoodle, based in Nashville, Tenn., and was founded by three fathers, launched in August 2013. The company distributes 2-3 minute "brain break" videos in schools to encourage kids to get up and move with the ultimate goal of improving attention spans and class behavior, while increasing physical activity.

The videos feature original characters like Maximo, created by a former Nickelodeon veteran, and the children’s rock band Koo Koo Kanga Roo, who encourage kids to get active and who teach certain subject material along the way. The videos are geared for students from pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.

The exercise content is driven by partner Zumba Kids, McQuigg says.

“Last year we began to get responses from teachers via social media telling us that they were using our content as a way of coping with recess being lost on storm and snow days,” Mr. McQuigg says in a phone interview. “While we don’t at all see our videos as a replacement for PE or recess, but an added resource, it got us thinking about what we could do for teachers this winter.”

Therefore, long before New England and other areas got socked-in by snowfall, GoNoodle had taken its three- to five-minute videos and created a series of “indoor recess mashups” that run for 15 minutes each.

Currently, the site boasts 274,000 users who are classroom teachers and more than 5.5 million kids using the service in classrooms and at home.

While a study from Harvard University last January revealed, “[School] closures are not associated with changes in achievement,” another study last year in The Journal of Pediatrics, showed that physical activity is key to increased focus and learning, especially for students diagnosed with ADHD. 

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Kristin J. Carothers, clinical psychologist at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, recently told The Christian Science Monitor that children often draw much of their mental motive power – their creativity –  from their ability to get in sufficient play time.

However, adults may become “functionally fixed,” stuck, locked into their way of thinking, and then are afraid to change, which results in a lack of creative thinking, and a failure to adapt to demands or capitalize on opportunities.

“By having 'brain breaks' kids increase their cognitive ability,” McQuigg says. “I like that Dr. Carothers saw that as applying to becoming ‘functionally fixed’ because it still applies to students when they miss recess on days with inclement weather.”


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