With a few decals placed strategically on the floor, the Don’t Walk In The Hallway initiative is getting kids moving throughout Alberta schools.
A physical activity initiative developed by an Alberta teacher is getting kids hopping throughout the province and beyond.
Don’t Walk In The Hallway began three years ago in a Calgary school and has now expanded to approximately 200 schools. The idea is to mark a course or pattern on the hallway floor and allow school children to move creatively — by hopping, skipping, jumping, etc. — along its path rather than simply walking.
Teacher Chris Fenlon-MacDonald came up with the idea while employed at Panorama Hills School in Calgary. It began with some painter’s tape on the floor of a short section of the school’s hallway, something the teacher did without any explanation to students.
“I just sat back and videotaped it and watched,” he said. “It was pretty cool because they saw these patterns on the floor and they started hopping down the hallway. Some students engaged right away; others were maybe a little bit hesitant. For the most part they were hopping and skipping and being creative.”
Fenlon-MacDonald said he hit on the idea after attending a conference session by physical literacy expert Dean Kriellaars, who talked about active transportation in schools and lamented the fact that, in a single generation, society has virtually eliminated walking to school, which has resulted in a loss of roughly 2,000 steps a day.
Following his initial trial with the painter’s tape, Fenlon-MacDonald got the entire school involved in raising money to purchase and install coloured floor tiles in a pattern on the floor. The school’s math specialist was involved, resulting in a pattern that was useful for explaining mathematical principles.
Fenlon-MacDonald then used tracking devices to show that the initiative generated an increase of 900 steps per day, on average.
“The hand on the hip, finger on the lip is kind of an existing culture in some schools and this is something that has started to normalize physical activity, which I think is a pretty big win,” he said.
Taking it provincial
Fenlon-MacDonald has since begun working with Ever Active Schools, a special project of the Health and Physical Education Council of the Alberta Teachers’ Association that promotes health and wellness in schools.
The organization has created a Don’t Walk In The Hallway resource that includes floor decals that can be easily applied.
The program has since fanned out to more than 200 Alberta schools as well as generating interest from other parts of Canada and even Australia. Some of the feedback from the program runs counter to what one might expect.
“We’re actually seeing the children be more orderly in the hallway now,” said Brian Torrance, director of Ever Active Schools. “Instead of zigzagging around and not having a path, once they’re engaged with this resource, they’re kind of moving more in a straight line and they’re more orderly.”
The program has taken off, he says, as educators awaken to the many benefits that children realize from engaging in regular physical activity, such as reduced anxiety and behavioural issues, and increased cognitive abilities, positive social connections and time on task.
“Activity should live not just only in the gymnasium but activity should live in classrooms and hallways because physical activity is good for learning,” Torrance said.
Part of the appeal of the resource kit is the fact that the concept is easy to understand and can be implemented quickly, he said.
Fenlon-MacDonald said his initial trial did experience some growing pains at first as the program raised concerns about noise in the hallway and potential injury, but these were addressed with two simple rules: are you safe and are you respectful?
“What we found is that it allowed students to think critically,” he said.
In a promotional video produced by Ever Active Schools, principal Chris Good of Ecole Barrie Wilson in Red Deer, said there’s been a tremendous response to the program in his school.
“We’re seeing an improvement in just the general overall feeling in the school,” he said. “It creates a really positive environment and it makes things a lot more fun.”
For more information on the Don’t Walk In The Hallway resource kit, click here