School program gets the juices flowing
By: Tammy Rollie
| Posted: Wednesday, Jan 30, 2013 10:48 am
Teachers at an Okotoks elementary school notice a big difference when it comes to their students learning on Tuesdays.
Physical education specialist Christine Killam said it’s not a coincidence École Percy Pegler School students are ready to hit the books on Tuesdays more so than any other day of the week. She attributed their eagerness to the school’s new Move It Tuesday program, which has every student in the school taking part in physical activity for half an hour every Tuesday before school begins.
“I have teachers who say their students come in after Move It Tuesday and that’s the best learning they have had all day,” she said. “They find they are more awake and more enthusiastic.”
Move It Tuesdays was developed by the school’s one-year-old healthy schools committee, spearheaded by Killam, which delves into nutrition, physical education and health and wellness at the school.
The seven-teacher committee works in conjunction with Alberta Health Services to come up with different outdoor games and activities for the students to participate in continuously for 30 minutes before school.
Especially fond of the program is Grade 6 student Jordan Rocheleau.
“I thought it would just be dancing but it turns out that it is all these activities that you get to do and it just gets you ready for the day,” he said. “It wears you out so it’s easier to have your brain working and it just starts the day.”
Now Rocheleau is ready to hit the books and has even shared some of the games with his family.
Killam said her concern for the lack of physical activity in the school results from some students spending their recess sitting or standing around and physical education only being offered to students twice a week for half an hour.
“Teachers are supposed to do half an hour of physical education a day in our classrooms but it’s a struggle to get it done,” she said. “They don’t have the space and they don’t know what to do.”
Killam said the school introduced a school-wide walk but it was not well received.
Bringing students outside on Tuesday mornings for half an hour with different activities each day has had a bigger impact, she said. In inclement weather students participate in Wii Dance in the gymnasium, she said.
“My teachers have now learned 25 different games that they can do,” she said. “I think the staff feel supported and have more resources, more ideas and they are more motivated to implement a half hour of daily physical education a day.”
Grade 5/6 French immersion teacher Ashlea Stevenson said she noticed a big difference with her students on Tuesdays.
“My kids’ energy levels are up right away in the morning which is great because sometimes it takes a few hours before they kick in,” she said. “Just having them more motivated, awake and really wanting to be here and being engaged a lot quicker is so refreshing and makes my job a lot easier. Our goal is to engage the students and ensure they are not only on task but happy to be here and enjoying what they’re learning.”
Killam said there is an increase in sedentary behavior among children with many spending too many hours watching television or playing video games, especially during the winter months when it’s cold outside.
“If they are too sedentary it’s not giving them enough chance to experience outside and experience team play and cooperative play and get to know their bodies and how to move and challenge themselves,” she said.
Killam said numerous studies show how physical activity improves learning among children.
Move It Tuesdays offers a variety of ideas to keep students moving and even brings a community member to the school each month to offer a new skill like Zumba, yoga and martial arts — programs offered right in the community, said Killam.
With the physical education component well underway (with participation from students at École Beausoleil School) the healthy schools committee plans to address nutrition next, said Killam. This component will educate students about making healthy food choices and will provide healthy snacks and assess the school’s hot lunch food items to see if changes need to be made, said Killam.
“It’s about educating the child and having the education come from the child to home,” she said.
In working with Alberta Health Services Killam said she hopes the school will be eligible for grants to assist with additional costs to implement these programs from gym equipment to healthy snacks.