Schools in Motion is a science-driven education innovation programme in Estonia. In collaboration with participating schools, the program aims to develop and implement practices that support physical activity of students and teachers in Estonia.

Fact sheet 2023

  • Currently, there are 212 schools in the network (41% of all general education schools in Estonia), different in size, location and capabilities.
  • Almost 57% of Estonian students study in a School in Motion.
  • Compared to other schools, the students of Schools in Motion report significantly more possibilities to be active throughout the school day. The indicators include: physically active learning, active recess, outdoor recess, teachers’ support to active recess, active school travel and organising activities by students themselves. Source: General education school satisfaction survey by the Ministry of Education, 2022.
  • The possibility to move during the school day is in correlation with: feeling good at school; better relationships with classmates; going to school gladly. Source: General education school satisfaction survey by the Ministry of Education, 2018-2021.
  • In comparison with new Schools in Motion, the schools that have participated in the programme longer have better results. In older schools,
  • the action team enjoys more support by the school principal and parents to design physically active school culture;
  • there is more equipment for active teaching and learning as well as for outdoor recesses;
  • there are more teachers who use active teaching methods in grade 1-3;
  • there is a longer break for active recesses;
  • the assembly hall and gym are open during the recess;
  • there are better conditions for parking bikes (bike racks etc).
  • 99% of the parents consider it important that children have opportunities to be physically active during school day. Source: “The role of the school environment, teachers, and parents for encouraging physical activity among students”, research conducted in 15 Schools in Motion.
  • 94% of the parents value that children have outdoor recess every day. Source: “The role of the school environment, teachers, and parents for encouraging physical activity among students”, research conducted in 15 Schools in Motion.

What programme is Schools in Motion?

Schools in Motion is implementing a “whole-school approach”, i.e creating possibilities to be physically active throughout the school day, including recess, lessons, school travel, physical education lessons, extra-curricular activities, school events and teachers’ activities, both indoors and outdoors.

In the programme, we are looking for solutions that help students

  • to be able to move more and sit less during lessons and recess
  • to take greater initiative in organising their own recess activities
  • to gain greater joy from learning
  • to build and reinforce positive relationships through play and physical activities.

We are also working with re-conceptualising and redesigning the school day schedule and physical environment:

  • the buildings and surroundings and available equipment encourage more movement;
  • timetables allow time for physical activity and a richer variety of activities.

The programme also supports the well-being of teachers, for example, through walk-and-talk meetings, joint workouts, and the recognition of teachers for their contribution to building a schools-in-motion culture.

As a result, many schools have changed timetables and increased the length of recesses. Additionally, dancing, playing games, going outdoors, and exercising during recess are an official part of school timetables. Students are more engaged in planning and leading activities for fellow students and themselves. Hundreds of ideas for integrating physical activities throughout the school day have been uploaded onto the programme website.

Background of the initiative

Schools in Motion was launched in 2016 by the University of Tartu’s Move Lab (Liikumislabor) after its own research showed that 76% of Estonian seven-to-thirteen-year-olds were not achieving the recommended minimum 60 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (i.e. cause an increase in heart rate and breathing, such as during brisk walking).

The research and experience of other countries showed that providing physical activity during school day is a promising way to tackle the problem. Research also demonstrated that daily physical activity provides benefits for academic achievements, social skills and mental wellbeing of children, in addition to physical health benefits.

We launched the programme in 2016 with 10 voluntary schools. By 2023, more than 35% of all general education schools are participating in the programme.

Move Lab’s contribution

The Move Lab from the University of Tartu is the organiser of the programme. With our interdisciplinary team that includes scientists, experts and trainers from different fields, we support schools in thinking through how reconceptualised spaces, both indoors and outdoors, can foster increased physical activities in diverse settings.

Move Lab provides seminars and workshops for school teams, teachers, school governors and students. We also provide with supportive tools and professional advice and feedback, and contribute to advocacy and partnership with other interest groups.

Additionally, Move Lab conducts ongoing action research in the schools.

The Move Lab’s vision is that every child has a chance to study in a School in Motion and every teacher could teach in one.

Schools’ trajectories

Schools in Motion general model is applicable to all schools, as each school knows its challenges and conditions, decides their priorities and pace and is an expert of its program.

Schools are invited to develop their vision of enhancing student and staff well-being by becoming more physically active both individually and collectively. As a first step, participating schools are asked to undertake a self-evaluation that focuses on physical movement and this in relation to the entire school community. The self-evaluation references points in relation to movement are school cooperation and networking, school indoor and outdoor spaces, recess, academic lessons, physical education, as well as travel to and from school.

After self-evaluating, the school teams and other pick their activities, depending on their own resources conditions and challenges. Their efforts supported by the trainings and seminars of Move Lab, joint activities with other schools, methods and online materials, and very often, by the local government, too.

The schools’ experiences, both success and failure, help to shape the overall program in constant co-creation.

Funding

In 2020-2023 the activities targeted on developing and disseminating the model are being carried out through the project “Increasing physical activity of schoolchildren” funded by Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway through the EEA Grants and co-funded by The Ministry of Social Affairs of Estonia and University of Tartu.

This video was made as a part of the #OurStories campaign that showcases how the projects supported by the EEA and Norway Grants are making a difference for a better Europe.

English Articles on Schools in Motion

“Learn like Einstein, move like Jagger”, 2023

Author: FREDRIK MJELL, published on eeagrants.org.

In today’s fast-paced world, where screens often take precedence over swings, the diminishing physical activity of children is causing concern. It’s not just about health – it’s about ensuring that the next generation is equipped with the tools they need to navigate life. In Estonia, there is a move to change that narrative. Supported by the EEA and Norway Grants, an innovative project is harnessing the potential of schools, turning them into arenas of activity and health.

“Schools in Motion: Extending thinking and enhancing well-being through movement”

Published on educationestonia.org

School by school, step by step, activity by activity, the Schools in Motion programme is working to further integrate physical activities throughout the school day.

“Developing a comprehensive school-based physical activity program with flexible design – from pilot to national program”

Authors: Kerli Mooses, Triin Vihalemm, Marko Uibu, Katrin Mägi, Leene Korp, Maarja Kalma, Evelin Mäestu and Merike Kull. Published on BMC Public Health

This article focuses on the process of designing the vital, participatory school-based intervention program aiming to increase the physical activity in schools. The program analyzed is Estonian nationwide comprehensive physical activity program Schools in Motion (SiM) that recently received European Commission’s #BeActive Education Award. The program has a good performance in terms of willingness of schools to participate in co-creation of program development, the high interest to join the program and zero dropouts, and strong partnership with ministries which enables to actively participate in policy making. Authors analyze the key elements of the planning, piloting, implementation, and scaling phases of the SiM program and share their lessons learnt in co-working with schools. The difficulties faced during the development process, the strengths and challenges associated with an interdisciplinary approach, and involvement of schools as experts have been addressed.