Implementing The Walking Classroom in an afterschool or other out-of-school time setting is a little different than rolling the program out in a classroom setting! Read on for some tips we’ve accumulated to help ensure success with The Walking Classroom at your out-of-school site.
Timing is Everything
Incorporate the program at a time that doesn’t require your participants to choose between The Walking Classroom and their much-needed free play. After all, The Walking Classroom should not replace free play, but serve as a supplemental resource.
Use The Walking Classroom to provide additional physical activity while building academic background knowledge (or reinforcing academic concepts). Try to use the program at least two to three times a week. This consistency is important. It allows your participants the opportunity to get used to the new way of learning, and it helps to establish a routine.
Choose an outdoor area that has an easy walking surface for your walks. And now, heading outdoors is an easy way to maintain physical distance. Enjoy the natural beauty of the outdoors (and the changes each season brings!) by following a trail through a park. A track is fine, but repeatedly walking in a circle can become a little boring!
For an especially enriching opportunity, find a podcast that correlates with something within the community, like a park, historic site, or other location, and take a walking field trip there!
Facilitators, Be Prepared!
Be sure that any staff member who is implementing the program has completed the free online training. We find that folks who complete the training have the most successful (and positive!) experience with the program.
Encourage staff members to listen to the podcast ahead of time if at all possible, to familiarize themselves with the content. Also be sure that they are listening while walking with your participants. It is beneficial for kids to see staff members modeling good listening while walking!
Think of other fun and interesting ways to engage club members during the discussion component. Looking for additional enriching activities focusing on specific themes? Check out the Timely Topics posts on The Walking Classroom’s blog! And, most importantly, remember, our suggestions in the Discussion Guide are just that — suggestions!
HEPA Standards Aligned with TWC
Many OST sites work to ensure that their program aligns with the National Afterschool Association’s Healthy Eating and Physical Activity (HEPA) Standards. You’ll be glad to hear that The Walking Classroom supports that effort! In fact, you can find a matrix that compares HEPA standards and best practices with features and activities offered by TWC here.
Other Tips and Tricks to Try
The Walking Classroom works especially well when implemented during the academic/literacy component at most out-of-school sites. This would be during periods like Power Hour or Stop, Drop, Read, for example.
You can also use The Walking Classroom right before homework time. This not only allows participants to get some physical activity and fresh air, but also reduces the amount of fidgeting and restlessness at homework time. An added benefit? Exercise before homework prepares the brain for learning.
Speaking of learning — if possible, align the podcast with what your participants are learning at school. This provides them with context and helps them make connections, increasing their confidence in the classroom!
Finally, remember to regularly visit The Walking Classroom website for additional teacher/facilitator resources, visual aids, and interesting ideas from other adopters!