Physical activity helps students better retain STEM subjects
Recent stories by WIRED and CBS 5 News in Phoenix featured cutting-edge educational research by Mina Johnson-Glenberg, director of Arizona State University’s Embodied Games for Learning Lab. The ASU learning scientist has developed “mixed-reality” games that get kids doing arm circles, jumping jacks and dance moves to learn science-related subjects using whole-body activity that helps knowledge retention.
"What we have found is that when students are active or moving while learning, they retain the information longer," said Johnson-Glenberg to CBS 5. "Along with learning things via symbols or numbers, you're also learning with the sensory motor input that you're getting from moving the body."
According to WIRED, the learning lab focuses on creating games in the fields of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and health science using gesture-based learning and exergaming, or games that incorporate exercise. Kids play the games in pairs using Microsoft Xbox Kinect, which senses body movement and displays their actions on a screen.
The CBS 5 story explained how the games work:
• Alien Health Game teaches healthy food choices and exercise habits – as kids use their arms to feed an alien and do jumping jacks or squats to metabolize the meal.
• Tour de Force focuses on simple machines – specifically gears and how they work. Students move their arms in a circular motion, in low or high gear, to move bicycles up a hill.
• Red Rover Come Over is a Mars-like rover that teaches about levers. As the kids move their own arms, the rover moves its arms to crush rocks.
WIRED noted that the idea is to keep children interested in science and health, as well as improve their retention of what the games teach. "If I can get them when they're young, and keep them interested in science topics, then hopefully they'll carry that on as adults,” Johnson-Glenberg concluded. Johnson-Glenberg is also a professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.