Gui was a 8 years old boy.
This day, he was having a meltdown, he was crying and screaming; he was trying very hard to calm himself down but nothing would work. He would say “I just don’t know how”, he was looking for something that would make him happy again but he couldn’t find his way out of it, he would say “I’m crying like a baby and I don’t like it”.
The meltdowns were like storms happening in his brain and he had no control over it.
One day, while he was having another meltdown, we went outside in his backyard and started to jump on the trampoline, and then suddenly he said, very surprised, “oh the trampoline made me calm down really fast!”. He had just discovered about the magic of the trampoline.
After this day everything changed, he had found a way of regulating himself, a way to make himself happier when he needed to. Whenever he wanted and needed to go on the trampoline, he was saying: “I think I need exercise”. And we would run to the trampoline in his backyard.
He said once “I think I need to jump everyday on the trampoline!” The trampoline became part of his everyday life.
Each day, whether it was sunny or rainy he was jumping, running, walking…on the trampoline.
In hot weather, the trampoline became a “water trampoline”, we would bring the garden hose on the trampoline or the sprinkler, put our swim suit on and jump in the water; and on rainy days, we loved to jump in the rain.
We would bring everything he likes on the trampoline, his favorite toys, objects and musical instruments, everything that would make him happy.
We had our snacks on the trampoline and we even had occasionally some quiet times lying down, enjoying these rare peaceful moments.
The trampoline became his favorite place to be.
Sometimes we were simply happy to jump together, and playing all kind of silly games, often involving me chasing and catching him in all kind of different ways.
He was often looking at me in the eyes, smiling, laughing and communicating his joy of jumping on the trampoline. When Gui was very happy he would start to sing, in these moments he would radiated an intense and pure feeling of joy and of freedom.
He would suddenly be very interactive and open to learn everything.
He was sharing with me his interests by explaining to me the pictures or the road maps that he had in his head and that he was drawing with chalk on the trampoline. He also started to create stories starting with “a while ago”, practicing his verbal expression. The trampoline became a place for him to express his creativity.
The trampoline was also a place where we introduced some new concepts of math, biology, physics...In the morning, we would talk about what we will do, where we will go and learn during the day, and in the evening we would talk about what we had done during the day, about what we had learned or still needed to learn.
The trampoline became the center of his learning.
We even had as gui said, “school time” on the trampoline when we were pretending to be at school and Gui was pretending to be the teacher, and he would sometimes talk about what we learned before.
Gui was also learning social skills and how to interact with other people on the trampoline. He learned for example how to connect and interact with his brother by jumping together with him.
The trampoline became a place of social interactions.
The trampoline was just the movement he needed every day for his body and mind. It helped him to be free from his stress and anxiety so his brain could be open to learn.
In fact studies have shown that stress impairs learning in the brain because it triggers the release of high level of cortisol, the stress hormone, which is responsible for damaging the brain regions involved in learning. (See science of learning)
And this is mostly why a lot of children can’t learn or have great difficulties to learn in a regular classroom where the environment can be quite stressful.
So by releasing the stress, movement facilitated the cognitive networks in his brain involved in learning.
But what’s more is that movement also triggered the release of an important growth factor, the BDNF, responsible for increasing his brain’s plasticity, improving at the same time his learning abilities.
So by jumping on the trampoline, Gui set up the perfect conditions for his brain to learn.
In fact, movement is what our brain needs to learn. We are evolutionary programmed to learn on the move, that’s why this is how we learn best.
Indeed, the research showed that any type of rhythmic movement, such as riding a horse, swinging, rolling or bouncing on a trampoline help us to learn. These types of movement also stimulate the vestibular system located in the inner ear which is critical for attention and learning.
Movement is just what we need to be able to learn. Ignoring this fact would be simply the same as ignoring our human nature.
So let’s learn while moving. Let’s jump, run, walk, swing, roll, ride and bring learning back to life!