The Walking Classroom
- Need: To increase students' levels of physical activity, engagement in learning, and academic achievement.
- Intervention: With The Walking Classroom, students take a brisk walk as a group while listening to a kid-friendly, custom-written educational podcast that aligns with the curriculum.
- Results: Children increase their activity level while learning academic content, building health literacy, and developing healthy lifestyle habits to prevent obesity and improve cognitive function and retention.
There is a significant positive relationship between physical activity and cognitive function in children. Classrooms, summer programs, afterschool, and other educational organizations in all 50 states use The Walking Classroom (TWC) to help students learn while they get fresh air and exercise and develop lifelong healthy habits. The Walking Classroom is a program of Alliance for a Healthier Generation that works with schools, youth-serving organizations, and businesses, to build healthier communities that support children's physical, social, and emotional health.
Using TWC, students in 3rd through 8th grade take a brisk walk as a class while listening to fun, custom-written educational podcasts on preloaded "WalkKit" audio players or on a mobile app.
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.
The evidence-based Walking Classroom program aligns with federal funding priorities (including ESSER), supporting social and emotional learning, addressing learning loss, and providing a learning tool that can be used in any learning environment.
The Walking Classroom podcast topics align with state learning standards and cover English language arts, science, social studies, and biographies. Each 20-minute podcast begins with a brief health message to help build health literacy. A character value (such as empathy, perseverance, reliability, integrity) is woven throughout the podcast narrative to support social and emotional learning.
The program includes full lesson plans with discussion questions, quizzes, and supplemental resources for each podcast topic as well as free online training and professional development for educators. The preloaded WalkKit audio players include 167 educational podcasts. The Walking Classroom Podcasts mobile app includes 191 educational podcasts.
Since its inception in 2011, hundreds of thousands of students have benefited from walking, listening, and learning with The Walking Classroom.
Two research studies have been completed on the impact of The Walking Classroom. Both were performed by researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and published in partnership with the Oak Foundation. The first study, conducted in 2018, found that walking while listening to podcasts improved student learning and retention as well as student mood. The second study, conducted in 2018 and 2019, found that students demonstrated higher levels of health literacy after participating in the Walking Classroom program.
Educators who have used the Walking Classroom report that it:
- 99% - Increases physical activity
- 99% - Addresses different learning styles
- 99% - Aligns with standards
- 98% - Fosters health literacy and healthy habits
- 98% - Builds core content knowledge
- 97% - Enhances social-emotional learning
- 97% - Develops character values
- 94% - Differentiates instruction
Students who used the Walking Classroom reported:
- 89% - TWC helps them better understand the content
- 83% - TWC makes learning more fun
- 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:
"My students are learning so much and being exposed to topics and vocabulary they never would have been before. I am especially looking forward to using The Walking Classroom in the future to build background knowledge for our learning targets. There are so many engaging ways to use this program." – Teacher
"I am so thankful for the program. I have been using the program for at least 8 years and I have watched the program grow and evolve. The website and blog are amazing and full of ideas and resources to supplement in my classroom." – Teacher
"I get frustrated when I stay in one place a lot and I don't do movement, but with The Walking Classroom, I get to move and when I get back in class, I'm happy and calm." – Sixth grade student
"The podcasts help me focus and help things stick in my mind much better." – 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 William J. 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:
- Taking active learning to a new level: WES and CSES combine learning and walking, Manchester Times, April 2019.
- Students on the Eastern Shore Are Walking, Listening, and Learning with The Walking Classroom, June 2021.
- The Walking Classroom Blog shares ways schools nationwide are using the program.
The Walking Classroom is a program of Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The Walking Classroom preloaded WalkKit audio players, Mobile App, Teachers' Guides, Discussion Guides, and Home Kits are available for purchase and by donation.
Contact InformationDebra Ives, Director, Business Development
The Walking Classroom
Children and youth
Wellness, health promotion, and disease prevention
April 21, 2014
Date updated or reviewed
March 3, 2023
Suggested citation: Rural Health Information Hub, 2023. The Walking Classroom [online]. Rural Health Information Hub. Available at: https://www.ruralhealthinfo.org/project-examples/750 [Accessed 7 June 2023]
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.