Exercising the brain
Fort Providence students learn some calming techniques

Mike W. Bryant
Northern News Services

Fort Providence ( May 29/00) - Elementary students at Deh Gah School have discovered a new way to stay focused in the classroom.

When Eileen Pederson -- a special needs teacher and educator for 30 years -- came to the school last year, she hoped a teaching method she had just recently learned, would be of some help to her new students.

"Two years ago, the school district I worked for in Trail, B.C. had a conference," explained Pederson.

"One of the day-long workshops was something called Brain Gym. I remember reading the description and thinking to myself that this would be a good way to prepare kids to get ready to learn."

Brain Gym is based on the work of Dr. Paul E. Dennison in Ventura, California, a pioneer in brain research.

"What it is, is a series of easy and energetic movements that activate and wake up the different areas of the brain that maybe temporarily switched off," Pederson said.

"What this does is create an inner environment where the whole brain is switched on."

Using the Brain Gym method calls for using four simple exercises to begin -- called PACE -- which help students and adults alike calm and relax themselves in order to function at a peak level.

The four exercises consist of: Drinking water (which conducts electrical energy in the body), stimulating acu-pressure points to increase oxygen flow to the brain, cross-crawls to activate both hemispheres of the brain, and hook-ups (a way of sitting that helps the body feel grounded and clear of emotions).

After these exercises, Pederson says the body and mind are more open to learning.

"At the beginning of the year, there was one boy who was sticking both of his legs into the desk as far as they would go and also through the opening through the back of his chair and leaning back and hanging upside down," she said.

"He wasn't listening. He was making silly sounds and outbursts.

"He now participates well in discussions. He is now the most creative and imaginative story teller in the class and he does very well at spelling tests."

Terri Lyn Hall, another teacher at the school, has since lost her scepticism towards the method when first confronted with it at the beginning of the school year.

"Originally, I was a little sceptical and through Eileen I started actually doing some of the exercises with my class," Hall said.

"I noticed that it did seem to focus their attention and quiet them down.

"I would say that it is very useful in calming the kids down first thing in the morning and after lunch, when they're really wound up."

For student Haley Arychuk the positive effects of Brain Gym are all the more apparent.

"It's making me work harder and listen better," Arychuk said.