October Partner & Volunteer Highlight: Move2Learn and Best Buddies International
Sometimes a little extra support is needed when it comes to getting students to concentrate on their course studies. Helping to make a difference through movement is what Move2Learn, formerly RunningBrooke, is all about. Likewise, there are times when extending a hand in friendship is what a student needs to help empower them, and Best Buddies International (Best Buddies) makes that connection. Both of our official partner organizations make a difference for many of our Alexandria City Public Schools (ACPS) students each day.
Move2Learn’s new name clearly reflects its vision and mission — using movement to transform learning so that all students can reach their highest potential. With the ACPS emphasis on providing social-emotional and academic learning (SEAL), movement is yet another way to help students manage their emotions. Using active seating and stationary bikes, Move2Learn’s program promotes physical activity throughout the school day so students can maximize their learning potential.
Brooke Sydnor Curran, president and CEO of Move2Learn, says that by putting movement in learning, the organization teaches children about the mind-body connection, which:
- Promotes blood flow to the brain and stimulates neurogenesis, the growth of new brain cells.
- Stirs up healthy chemicals (e.g., dopamine, endorphins) in the body to decrease stress, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, fatigue, anger, depression, anxiety, etc.
- Gives learners a “break” and a chance to move information from their short-term memory to long-term memory, creating room for more information.
“Movement does more than building muscle as it also helps to achieve a higher level of thinking, problem-solving, creativity, socializing with peers, building classroom community and just having fun,” Sydnor Curran said.
At ACPS’ Chance for Change Academy (CFC), Move2Learn has a movement mentor in teacher Fara Leigh Cepak. To help address the needs of Cepak’s students, Move2Learn outfitted CFC with its active seating and stationary bikes. “Move2Learn provided sit-to-stand desks, under-the-desk bike pedal exercisers, yoga mats and balls, push and pull-up bars and bicycle desks that my students can use as they do their work or take quick breaks,” Cepak explained. She said these accommodations help alleviate stress and keep students focused for long periods of time.
“Teachers and students need to stay invigorated in order to get the most out of any given school day. Most students feel some anticipation that they will hear something that speaks to them and they can see its merit and own it and apply it for success. Move2Learn has made this exponentially easier in my classroom,” noted Cepak, who adds that students subconsciously start to pedal or reach for the lever to put their desks in a standing position for a while.
Using a standing desk, Cepak has noticed a difference in the amount of work her students are able to get through as well as an increase in Socratic banter and, consequently, understanding. Cepak added, “Move2Learn also provides simple body movement ideas that help people stay alert.”
This past year, Move2Learn has also targeted its active seating to special education teachers in classrooms across Alexandria and has developed a strong relationship with the ACPS Office of Specialized Instruction. Its lessons have been modified for students with physical and intellectual disabilities. Move2Learn’s Out of School Time programming has also initiated an adaptive dance class at George Washington Middle School taught by a special education teacher. At Francis C. Hammond Middle School, it helped to establish a yoga club, inclusive of students with disabilities.
However, when students are looking for a sense of belonging, Best Buddies International’s one-to-one friendship program helps achieve that, supporting students with and without intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD). “It is not so much a mentorship as it is true friendship, connecting at school or for after school activities — facetime, texting, events,” Molly Whalen, the organization's capital region state director, said.
These friendship matches bring together high school students, forging connections between someone with, and someone without, a disability to engage in activities for at least one year. “Being a friend with someone with developmental disabilities sometimes just means slowing down,” Whalen noted. Telling a high school student to “slow down to be a friend can be a blessing,” she added.
For elementary and middle school, a special education teacher takes the lead, partnering with Best Buddies to help students achieve a better understanding of individuals with a disability. As the organization currently works with students at Alexandria City High School and in the middle schools, Whalen would like to grow the program at the elementary school level in ACPS, working with teachers who would provide Best Buddies as part of the curriculum. Whalen believes this would offer an enriching experience for students who do not have a disability to find commonality with students who do. “We talk about students who are part of the inclusion revolution — that they are growing up in a space that embraces inclusion and that everybody belongs,” Whalen said.
Best Buddies also offers leadership development training for self-advocacy at the high school level or older, inclusive living that brings people with and without disabilities living together in the same building as peers and a jobs program.
Through ACPS’ partnerships with Move2Learn and Best Buddies, the division works to fulfill our 2025 Equity for All Strategic Plan’s mission of ensuring success by inspiring students and addressing barriers to learning.