The Eastern Shore Community Service Board’s Prevention Office is pleased to announce that youth on the Eastern Shore of Virginia are now getting fresh air and exercise while they learn. The ESCSB Prevention Office purchased “WalkKit” audio players for youth in the eLearning program at the Eastern Shore YMCA in Onley and elementary age youth at the Eastern Shore Public Library branch in Nassawadox. Each audio player is preloaded with over 160 podcasts on topics including science, social studies, and language arts. Comprehension quizzes, discussion questions, and other supplemental materials are provided in a Teacher’s Guide which is available to the YMCA staff and to parents, teachers and staff who use the library WalkKits.

The Walking Classroom is simple. Youth take brisk 20-minute walks, as a class or with their program facilitator or family member, while listening to the same custom-written, kid-friendly podcast. Each podcast begins with a brief health literacy message, and the lesson plans in the Teacher’s Guide help educators, parents and YMCA program facilitators effectively discuss and review the podcast material. The program gets kids out of their seats and walking without sacrificing instructional time.

Andre Elliott, Executive Director of the Eastern Shore Family YMCA, says the program has been popular with both the staff and the students. “When the students finish their assignments, they will ask to use the WalkKits. It is wonderful to have an extracurricular standards-based program that encourages learning and exercising.”

A local elementary school principal learned about the program and has encouraged her teaching staff to use the program through the Eastern Shore Public Library.  The teachers and students are enthusiastic about the podcasts. The ESCSB is hoping to expand its partnership with local schools to reach more youth and educators with the Walking Classroom program.

To encourage families to check out the WalkKits at the library, James Foley of the ESCSB Prevention Office created a Trail Passport for each user.  The Trail Passport has a list of all of the podcasts and maps of six walking trails on the Eastern Shore with the distance of each trail and the points the youth accumulates when the trail is completed. There is a Walking & Learning Log in the back of the passport where the youth can keep track of the podcasts they have done trails they have walked, distances they have logged and points they have earned. They can present their passports at the library desk to receive incentives such as earbuds, power packs and selfie lights.

Why it works

The Walking Classroom’s “Walk, Listen, and Learn” methodology combines listening with exercise to capitalize on the strong connection between physical activity and improved brain function, resulting in improved classroom performance. And it’s fun!

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