Social Emotional Learning

Grant Applicant
Emily Hart (PE) and Jess Darkenwald (counseling)
Grant Category
Grant Date
Description (10 points)

Physical Education Specialist and Counseling will work collaboratively with small groups integrating brain-based physical activities (cup stacking, juggling, hurdles and ladders) to enhance student focus. Cup stacking studies show cup stacking activities improve reading test scores and cross-patterning brain development.

A study, conducted by Shirlene Davis at the University of North Carolina, evaluated differences in STAR Reading Test Scores for those that participated in cup stacking and those who did not. The study found children that used cup stacking activities achieved higher scores in reading after the experiment was complete. The results concluded that the brain-based activity of cup stacking may have contributed to the increase in the achievement of reading development.

Benefits of Program (10 points)

Cup Stacking studies show cup stacking helps stimulate a child's brain and in turn helps with focus and improves reading test scores and cross-patterning brain development. Jean Blaydes Madigan, founder of Action Based Learning and author of Thinking on Your Feet says, “What makes us move, makes us think. New learning follows established motor patterns first before it is stored in the cortex. Therefore, if we teach our students to move better, the better thinkers they will become…Information that is arranged in patterns is more easily processed, retained and retrieved.”

Cup stacking develops an individual's ability to cross their midline. his fun and intense game actually “forces” the child to cross the midline with their hands as well as their eyes, which engages the right and left hemispheres of the brain needed for higher learning concepts. As more children participated in these activities in school, teachers and physical education specialists started to notice a difference in the students’ development of language skills, math sequences and problem solving. 

What many teachers and educators may not know is the impact cup stacking also has on a child’s visual processing skills and reading ability. Because the child is moving their hands so quickly, their eyes must also track the cups and the movement of their hands as they participate in the activity. The eyes naturally cross the midline to accomplish this task. These skills are very important for reading and writing development. “Eye-tracking exercises and peripheral vision development help reading. When students watch screens, their eyes lock in constant distant vision and the muscles that control eye movement atrophy…Tracking exercises, manipulatives, navigation activities and target games exercise the eye muscles, making the eyes fit to read.” (Madigan).

Sequencing and patterning are also elements of cup stacking that build math skills. When kids practice ordering and sequencing they build foundational skills for mathematical learning. As you learn more about the rules in cup stacking, there is an order and sequence each child must follow to correctly complete the exercise. Remembering sequences and patters helps students remember sequences and numbers within math problems as well, especially in geometry and trigonometry. It builds a strong foundation for problem solving and critical thinking. 


Success of Program (10 points)

At Kings Beach Elementary we are running a pilot program for Social Emotional Learning for students in small groups. Working collaboratively Physical Education Specialist and counselor are integrating movement and brain research to help students develop both social-emotional and academic skills. Utilizing brain based researched physical activities, such as cup stacking, children are guided through age and developmentally appropriate physical skills, which help students develop focus, increase their ability to control impulsivity and manage emotions and cope more effectively when frustration are triggered interpersonally and/or academically.

Implementation (10 points)

The Social Emotional Learning period is every day for 45 minutes. Team teaching the PE teacher and counselor bring their expertise to the focus of the SEL class. Students are selected by their classroom teacher to participate in a 2 day a week six week block. Teacher feedback on the current pilot program has been favorable. With the purchase of 15 sets of cups students in the program will be able to take sets home and continue practicing cup stacking progressions and teacher other family members how to cup stack.

Can you share this grant with your grade level or subject team?

Students are selected (1st-4th) by their classroom teacher to participate in a 2 day a week six week block. 

Cups when used appropriately and stored properly last a long time
Amount Funded
Individual Budget Items(s)
$225 - 15 Sets of Cups ($15 each)
Budget Notes

Shipping costs included if ordered through Amazon

Other funding sources

Additional sets of Cup Stacking Supplies will be purchased with Physical Education Measure A funds