Activity in Schools

Getting kids active throughout the school day

When people think of activity in schools, they usually think of going to the gym for PE class. But school districts across the country are reducing their physical education offerings and they are no longer sufficient to meet the daily activity needs of children. Introducing physical activity throughout the school day and across the curriculum not only allows students more opportunity to be active but can enhance the learning process.

One approach to increasing activity during the school day is to use movement to underscore information in lessons. Research demonstrates that students are more successful in learning new information when they are able to actively participate in the lesson. Additional research shows that physical activity is one way to approach sensory-based learning and that this approach yields better understanding and retention across many different age groups. By combining movement and lessons, students get the opportunity to be physically active and learn more effectively.

Another approach to rethinking physical activity throughout the school day is considering recess. By moving recess before rather than after lunch, schools have found that kids are not only more active, but eat better, too. Physical education classes should not be forgotten, however. A student's success--academically and otherwise--depends in large part on the well being of the student and the ability to care for his or her body. Schools may need to be creative in structuring their physical education offerings, such as partnering with an outside organization for support or adding a "zero hour" PE elective before the school day begins. School is the launch pad for children to grow and achieve and incorporating more activity throughout their day helps them do both.

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Case Studies

School officials at the elementary and combined middle and high schools in Grundy Center, Iowa, recognize that physical activity at school is critical in the fight against childhood obesity. It is one of the first schools to feature the PE4Life model of physical education for students and is a role model for many other schools.

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A visitor to Patricia Whitmore's Kindergarten classroom at Harmony Elementary School in Overland Park, Kansas, is just as likely to find students hopping, stretching, or rolling on the floor as sitting at a desk.  Ms. Whitmore uses a series of creative energizers throughout the school day to engage her students in action-based learning.

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