The Walking Classroom
- Need: To help improve students' ability to learn while engaging in physical activity.
- Intervention: Through The Walking Classroom, students learn from a variety of 20-minute podcasts several times per week while walking.
- Results: Children increase their activity level while learning academic content, building health literacy, and developing healthy lifestyle habits to prevent obesity and improve cognitive functioning.
Studies show links between exercise and cognitive functioning, improved behavior, and decrease of obesity in children. Children with ADHD, dyslexia, and/or autism especially can benefit from alternative learning activities that engage physical activity.
School, summer, and afterschool programs have an
opportunity to help students develop lifelong health
habits such as learning to enjoy regular exercise.
Walking Classroom (TWC) was developed as a a way to
incorporate exercise without sacrificing instructional
time. Developed in North Carolina, this award-winning
nonprofit program is now used in 50 states.
Using TWC, students in 3rd through 8th grade walk as a class while listening to an educational podcast that includes a health literacy message along with a content area lesson (language arts, social studies, and science). The podcasts come pre-loaded on custom "WalkKit" audio devices. The year-long courses are designed for teachers to use the WalkKits 2 to 4 times per week throughout the school year.
In this 5-minute video, a fifth grade teacher and her students share their experiences with The Walking Classroom:Other videos talk about the benefits of TWC from teachers' perspectives.
Partners for TWC include:
TWC is financially supported by the following groups:
The 20-minute Walking Classroom podcast topics include a brief health literacy message at the beginning of each podcast. Its kid-friendly, custom audio lessons the students listed to while they walk are aligned to the English Language Arts Common Core State Standards.
The program is used in a variety of educational settings,
including classrooms, afterschool programs, camps, and
Teacher's guides include lesson plans, discussion
questions, and quizzes for each podcast.
In 2018, 44,800 walking kits were distributed to students in rural, urban, and suburban settings across the U.S. Program organizers estimate that more than 75,000 students are currently using Walking Classroom materials.
Educators who have used the Walking Classroom report:
- 99% - Students are more engaged in class discussions after TWC lessons
- 97% - Listening to TWC podcasts while walking strengthened students understanding of content
Students who used the Walking Classroom reported:
- 89% - TWC helps them better understand the content
- 75% - It's easier to concentrate throughout the day after a TWC lesson
- 74% - Enjoyed walking since starting TWC
Program participants described how the Walking Classroom has impacted them:
"We could not be more thrilled with the reception the Walking Classroom has received from our students. We are noticing the optimistic outlooks our students are developing because they're feeling good about themselves and the exercise they're getting. Our students are excited to learn and are equally excited to share their new knowledge with anyone who will listen." – Fifth grade teacher
"I was so happy to learn about what a calorie is. My parents are overweight and I should tell them." – Fifth grade student
"The Walking Classroom really happied-up our class." – Fourth grade student
The Walking Classroom was a finalist for the 2014 Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust Innovations in Rural Health Award. The award recognizes innovative ideas and projects across the United States that have the potential to improve the health of people living in rural North Carolina communities. The Walking Classroom has also received the following awards:
- The 2018 Partnership for a Healthier America IMPACT Award
- The Walking Classroom Blog was awarded the Top 100 Classroom Blogs and Websites to Follow in 2018
- Triangle Business Journal's 2017 Innovation Award
- Finalist in the Coastal Federal Credit Union's Inaugural Power of Sharing Awards, 2016
- BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Foundation's
Bennington Healthy Community Institute for Nonprofit
Excellence winner, 2015
- eSchool News Readers' Choice Award, 2013-2014
- National Technology Innovation Grand Prize Winner for the Active Schools Acceleration Project, 2012
- BlueCross BlueShield of North Carolina Health Innovation Challenge winner, 2012
For more information about the impact of the Walking Classroom:
- Podcasts Work on Students' Minds, Bodies, Kentucky Teacher, February 2014.
- Good Things Report: The Walking Classroom, wral.com video, November 2013.
- The Walking Classroom Blog shares ways schools nationwide are using the program.
The program includes free online training and professional development, lesson plans, quizzes, and other teacher support materials. The curriculum includes over 100 pre-loaded educational podcasts.
TWC WalkKits, Teachers Guides, Discussion Guides, and Home Kits are available for purchase and by donation. The program's cost is estimated to be around $20 per child when amortized over the WalkKit's anticipated lifespan of 3 to 5 years.
Children and youth
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
April 21, 2014
Date updated or reviewed
May 11, 2018
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2018. The Walking Classroom [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/750 [Accessed 25 November 2020]
Please contact the models and innovations contact directly for the most complete and current information about this program. Summaries of models and innovations are provided by RHIhub for your convenience. The programs described are not endorsed by RHIhub or by the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy. Each rural community should consider whether a particular project or approach is a good match for their community’s needs and capacity. While it is sometimes possible to adapt program components to match your resources, keep in mind that changes to the program design may impact results.