Movement Education: Curriculum Model & Activities

Instructor: Rachel Tustin

Dr. Rachel Tustin has a PhD in Education focusing on Educational Technology, a Masters in English, and a BS in Marine Science. She has taught in K-12 for more than 15 years, and higher education for ten years.

Movement education is an approach to physical education that dates back to the 1800s. Unlike traditional PE, it involves building a higher sense of awareness in students about how and why their bodies move during different activities.

PE Class

Depending on where and when you grew up, your experiences in a physical education class could be vastly different compared to others. In certain parts of the country, you may fondly remember learning to play hockey as a small child in PE and being excited when you graduated from the tennis ball to a real hockey puck on the ice. Others may remember learning square dancing as an integral part of the PE curriculum. You may even have spent some time learning basic Yoga. It is quite possible that your teachers were using these sports to teach you movement education.

The Movement Education Framework

Movement education began as part of dance education in the 1800s but found its way into physical education and other exercise classes from the 1960s to 1980s. While it is considered to be under the umbrella of physical education in schools, movement education really strives to go further than your traditional gym class. It addresses four key concepts within the context of movement: body, relationship, space, and effort.

Body

When teaching students about the body as part of movement education, it is not just about teaching them to name the parts of their body as they would in a biology class. Rather, it is about teaching them a framework for understanding their body in a scientific, especially physics, related manner. Students begin by learning about body shapes or silhouettes, such as round or asymmetrical. However, they also learn about how the different parts of their body play a role in the actual physics of the movements they are performing. If they are doing a cartwheel, they might learn to classify their body parts into those that apply force as part of the movement.

The final category of the body in movement education is whole body actions. These body actions consist of nonlocomotor skills which are motions performed on a fixed base of support where the body essentially stays in the same position. To perform these actions are based on three primary types of body movements: a stretch, a curl, and a twist. The next category is locomotor skills where the body moves from one place to another. Gallops, skips, and jumps are all examples of locomotor skills. Finally, there are manipulative skill actions which involve using the body to control an action such as a racket or a baseball bat. Skills such as catching or dribbling a ball are manipulative skills.

movement

Space, Effort, and Relationships

Space is an important concept in movement education. Teaching students about space in terms of movement education involves teaching directions such as up and down and left and right. However, space is usually taught to be based on three different planes. The sagittal plane is the imaginary plane that divides the body into the left and right sides. Movements along this plane are forward and backward, like bowing to your partner or shooting a basketball. The frontal plane divides the body into front and back planes, like the front and back of a sandwich. Movements along the frontal plane are sideways, similar to opening and closing a door. Finally, there is the traverse plane which involves twisting movements such as doing a log roll with your body.

space movement

For these movements to happen, the body needs to apply effort to make the movement occur in different ways. For example, you can apply different amounts of effort to make a movement fast or slow, or even accelerate through a movement. Additionally, you can use effort to make a movement more hard and tense, or soft. If you want, you made a movement very direct and focused like a gymnast on the balance beam or more indirect like children scattering on the playground.

When we talk about relationships in movement education, we aren't necessarily talking about your relationship with your PE teacher or even your basketball team. It is about the types of connections that can be formed through body movements. There are the people relationships in movement education such as moving solo, solo within a group and moving about a group. There are a variety of ways your body can move relative to others within a group. These can include moving over or under a partner, or through a group of children.

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