ROCKVILLE — As summer comes to a close and back-to-school preparations get under way, GoNoodle and RespectAbility have teamed up to introduce a new character to their platform that represents children with differing abilities, named Flash Bolton.
GoNoodle provides short interactive videos that are meant to get students out of their chairs and moving. Research shows that taking short breaks from lessons to move around can increase a child’s academic performance, according to a 2014 study published in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior.
In fact, some states, such as Oregon, mandate that elementary school-aged children have 30 minutes of physical education classes in addition to recess periods.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who are allowed sufficient physical activity are often able to stay on task better than children who are more sedentary.
“Deskside movement helps kids achieve more by keeping them engaged and motivated throughout the day,” GoNoodle writes.
The videos, which tend to be between two and five minutes long, incorporate dance, yoga, stretching, calisthenics and partner activities, among others.
GoNoodle has been around since 2013. They have in-house animators and work with other production studios as well.
According to GoNoodle, the movement and mindfulness platform is used in many classrooms throughout the United States, and their videos help children maintain focus.
“Our focus has always been on improving kids’ health and wellness,” GoNoodle said. “We began with an online health curriculum called ‘HealthTeacher.’ Inside of the ‘HealthTeacher’ product, we created a deep-breathing activity called ‘Airtime.’ Speaking with teachers, we realized that the deep-breathing app was their favorite aspect of ‘HealthTeacher,’ and they were looking for ways to energize and calm students in the classroom.”
Through more collaboration with teachers and schools, GoNoodle recognized a need for a wider variety of videos and content.
“Many teachers we spoke with were leading activity breaks on their own or searching the internet for dance videos they could do in the classroom. We took these teacher requests and launched ‘GoNoodle!’ We relied heavily on teacher feedback and word of mouth to grow,” said Shira Ackerman, director of education and research at GoNoodle.
GoNoodle videos are free for classrooms and home use, but there is also a premium paid version that can be purchased on a district basis. The premium version is often sponsored by health care partners for schools in their districts.
Ackerman explained that in an effort to create content that resonates with every child, they partnered with RespectAbility to create a new character that would represent a more-inclusive variety of roles.
“We reached out to RespectAbility to help with these efforts and worked with them throughout the process from development to the final launch of Flash Bolton,” she said.
Flash Bolton is a light-blue lightning bolt that sits in an orange wheelchair. He is part of the GoNoodle Yes! You! Initiative that is designed to celebrate students from different backgrounds.
“Full of energy and a spark, Flash Bolton has an electric personality and is always up for fun adventures and exploration,” GoNoodle said. “He rides a wheelchair and loves all things fast, from cars and planes to cheetah and guitar riffs.”
GoNoodle recognized that people with disabilities make up the largest marginalized community in the United States.
“What kids see on screen influences how they act in real life,” said Lauren Applebaum, who is the vice president of RespectAbility. “Our work with GoNoodle enables portrayal in digital kids’ media of a character with a disability, which then helps remove the barriers that separate us.”
RespectAbility is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to fight stigmas and create advancement opportunities for people with disabilities.
“We work with entertainment, policy makers, educators, self-advocates, nonprofits, employers, faith-based organizations, philanthropists, journalists and online media to fight stigmas and advance opportunities for people with disabilities,” RespectAbility wrote.
The organization employs people with and without disabilities in the hope of educating their communities.
“Our free tools and factual resources inform so people with disabilities can achieve the education, training, jobs, security and good health that everyone needs and deserves,” they wrote.
Flash Bolton joined GoNoodle content on July 31 and will be part of a new video that is expected to be released on Sept. 2.