Jumpin’ For Joy: GoNoodle Raises $5M to Help Kids Dance and Get Fit

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When education technologies comes to mind, so too do images of sedentary students staring at a screen. But here’s one that literally has kids jumping up and down.

Based in Nashville, TN, GoNoodle develops videos that engage kids in physical activities. The team has plenty of reasons to leap in joy, too: today it closed $5 million in an investment round from Children’s Health, a Dallas, TX-based chain of pediatric hospitals. Other equity investors include Chrysalis Ventures and SSM Partners. The company also has debt funding from Gefinor Capital and Rand Capital.

GoNoodle creates and curates videos that offer students “brain breaks,” intervals of a few minutes that encourage kids to get up, stretch, and practice dance moves that can be calming, moderately difficult or vigorous. The company aims to help kids reach the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day, half of which should happen in schools, experts recommend. Recess has been shown to benefit students in myriad ways.

“If students have a safe space to play outside, they should go,” Scott McQuigg, GoNoodle’s co-founder and CEO, tells EdSurge. “All their minutes shouldn’t be on GoNoodle. We aim to be additive. What we’ve found, however, is that there aren’t many minutes of outside play to replace. So we want to transform screen and instruction time into active time at home and at school.”

Some videos can be infectiously catchy, combining elements of electronic dance music with hokey pokey. In a video with three million hits on YouTube, a cast of hosts teaches the dance with the chorus, “My hands are high, my feet are low and this is how I Pop See Koo.” Said out loud, the name sounds like a mispronunciation of “popsicle.”

Launched in August 2013, GoNoodle claims that 10 million students across 68,000 public elementary schools are now taking brain breaks. Half a million teachers were active in the last month, 20 percent subscribe to GoNoodle Plus, the company’s premium model. Many parents also use it in their homes.

Rarely do education companies find investors from the healthcare sector. McQuigg tells EdSurge that Children’s Health brings a unique perspective:

“[Children’s Health] has figured out that there’s this goal congruence between healthcare and education around the development of the whole child,” he said. “When the largest pediatric provider in a community comes to the schools with an idea or a tool, there’s great community collaboration.”

Children’s Health already underwrites the use of GoNoodle’s premium version in school districts across Texas. The partnership began in McKinney and the Dallas Independent School District and expanded outward from there to Plano, Frisco and Allen districts. The hospital chain plans to sponsor the use of GoNoodle in more Texas school districts in 2016, and 36 other businesses and insurance plan to do the same across the country.

McQuigg believes GoNoodle is part of the early stages of helping kids be more fit. The quantified self is big news these days, but scaling it with schoolchildren takes a separate set of expertise.

“When you have 10 million kids doing something, how do we expand our content library to match that?” Mcquigg asked. “We want more movement! And we want to know how to evolve the experience to reach outside of GoNoodle.”

Will the screen-dazzled kids of today become the fleshy future humans from "Wall-E" or the isolated people of E.M. Forster’s The Machine Stops? Maybe not, if they’re taking enough brain breaks.

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