This year, 38 new schools from all across Estonia joined the education programme Schools in Motion. To balance the negative impact of the corona pandemic on pupils’ mental and physical health, the programme focuses on diversifying distance learning and integrating outdoor learning in school life. The education programme started five years ago and by now, it has expanded to as many as 148 schools with a total of 63,000 students.
The research-based programme initiated by the University of Tartu Move Lab has turned its attention to the COVID-19-induced extraordinary situation. “This is not an easy time for schools. The wish to provide quality education constantly clashes with changing circumstances, social distancing requirements and new forms of study,” said the head of the Move Lab and Lecturer in Health Education of the University of Tartu Merike Kull.
The Move Lab develops new solutions to support both face-to-face learning at school and distance learning at home. One of the aims is to increase the share of outdoor learning. “Coronavirus spreads less easily outside, and children manage to keep a safe distance better. Moreover, research has shown that outdoor learning fosters both the acquisition of learning content and the integration of subjects and creating connections. On top of that, much more physical activity is involved in outdoor learning,” said Kull.
Studies from all over the world have shown that distance learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made children’s lives lonelier and more sedentary, increasing mood disorders and health risks. Schools in Motion are also looking for solutions to this problem. “Schools want teachers to bring more diversity into distance learning assignments. Learning integrated with playful activities and exercise, small active breaks and going outdoors, even if it is just to listen to a podcast, is one way to solve this problem,” said Kull.
From 2020 to 2023, the development and implementation of the Schools in Motion programme takes place in the project “Increasing physical activity of schoolchildren” funded by the European Economic Area programme.