Ferrero has partnered with Deakin University to develop and evaluate the Australian Joy of moving research program in Victorian primary schools in collaboration with School Sport Victoria.
Based on the innovative International Joy of moving program created by Dr Caterina Pesce in Rome, the Deakin study aims to evolve the program through an evidence-based assessment of movement-based programs to support cognitive and physical development in children.
The Australian Joy of moving program uses fun, play-based movement activities to get children moving and engaged in the classroom. A unique aspect of the program is that it provides children with the opportunity to improve both their physical and mental health literacy. The program is inclusive of children of all abilities through research within both mainstream and specialist schools.
With the global impacts of the COVID pandemic on children's health and wellbeing, holistic programs that are accessible during school hours have never been more important. Co-designed by teachers and psychologists, the program is guided by two core principles: Any movement is good movement and moving helps us feel good.
The study took place over 3 years in Melbourne comprised of 15 mainstream schools and 9 specialist schools, engaging 244 teachers and 3,586 school children. The closure of schools due to the advent of COVID led to an earlier than planned close of this phase, however sufficient data was gathered to document the research.
To date, three of the eight planned research papers related to the Australian Joy of moving program have now been accepted for publication.
The first research paper investigated the relationship between motivation for physical activity and emotional and behavioural difficulties in children aged 8–12 years. The results supported the researchers’ hypothesis that autonomous motivation is associated with fewer emotional and behavioural difficulties in a sample of Australian children.
The research program has already had a positive impact, with teachers sharing that: “students thoroughly enjoyed the program” and “loved exploring different ways to move their bodies”. By providing teachers with engaging Australian Joy of moving resources and tools, the program has been able to capitalise on the “amazing opportunity to switch children on to the fun and lifetime benefits for body and mind of movement”, according to one teacher.
In the second study, researchers assessed physical moment within specialist schools to support children with disabilities, as analysis has shown the value of class time physical activity in mainstream classrooms. This review identified promising indications of a number of developmental benefits that children with disabilities may experience from engaging in a range of physical activities during class time. A third pilot assessment, due to be published soon, aims to determine the feasibility of a time-efficient school-based physical activity intervention for adolescents with disability.
Following the successful publication of the first Deakin research papers, the first stakeholder presentation of the Kinder Joy of moving Australia research project took place at the Embassy of Italy in Australia.
According to presenter Professor Nicole Rinehart, “the research program is exciting because it is exploring tools that provide teachers with a brief, yet comprehensive, approach to help children experience the physical and mental health benefits that come with being active. We know that mental health and physical health are inextricably linked, developing tools that can involve both activity and emotional wellbeing in the classroom, could have important lifelong implications for young people”.
Additionally, two of the planned papers are fully drafted and undergoing internal review with the plan to be submitted to journals. These include research focused on the impact of classroom-based physical activity on primary school aged children’s enjoyment and wellbeing; and a pilot evaluation of the Australian Joy of moving program with primary school children attending specialist schools.
The remaining studies will further explore the acceptability and feasibility of the Australian Joy of moving Program in mainstream schools; changes in teaching practices to improve the amount of movement that children will do in a school day and characterising gait profiles of children with autism spectrum disorder and intellectual disability.