Teachers in all subjects share the common goal of developing skills and habits in our students that will serve them well throughout their lives. This focus on educating the “whole child” reminds us that a student’s well being includes the health of their mind and body. I love how Joann’s picks this week encompass this concept by combining learning and exercise. Physical well-being and brain health go hand in hand. Read about this connection a little more in this article about a study of 9 and 10 year olds at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The CDC also recently released a list of research to support the importance of physical activity in schools. As an educator, it’s nice to see that there is research showing the importance of this physical activity, but it really boils down to this for me: How are my students going to focus on learning if their bodies are restless?
As many schools are faced with the reality of cuts in “specials” like P.E., the burden of keeping our students active and healthy is all too often shifting to the regular classroom teachers. As a classroom teacher, you may be thinking, “Don’t I already have enough on my plate?!” Adding this extra challenge to your to-do list this year may seem overwhelming. There are lots of neat activities indexed on The Gateway that you can easily incorporate into your everyday routine. Sites like P.E. Central can be very helpful for supplying ideas and activities you can implement, even with limited experience in physical education.
I like the way my daughter’s elementary school is helping teachers include physical activity by sponsoring a “mileage club,” where students walk or run around a designated path to earn punches on a card to show how far they go each day. At the end of each 5 miles, their punch card is full and they earn a little plastic foot to display proudly on their backpack. My daughter was absolutely ecstatic the day she came home with her first plastic foot on her backpack. I love the idea of getting the kids up and moving, but I wonder how long the enthusiasm for little plastic feet will last. I know money is tight, and kids can’t expect huge rewards for running around, but I was inspired to think of a way to make this “mileage club” idea more fun and perhaps even educational.
My mileage club idea is to have the students work toward reaching REAL destinations on a map of the area surrounding their school. They will still run or walk around the track at school, but each time they do it, they will track their total distance on a local-area map. Teachers can incorporate geography and map-reading skills as students plot their progress on a classroom map. Math calculations, goal setting, and motivating others are also topics that would be right at home in this activity. Keep in mind that a lot of the planning and activity ideas can be brainstormed and created by older students. Don’t be afraid to put them to work!
In my “virtual” mileage club, I plan to start by creating stops every 5 miles starting at the school. It was pretty simple to map out a route idea using Google Maps. I typed in the school name, and the name of the first destination I thought would be around 5 miles from the school. I found a popular park five miles from the elementary school, which will make a perfect first stop for the kids, since many of them are familiar with the park and how far away it is from their school. Beyond the park, I chose “stops” the students are familiar with, such as a popular restaurant, a family fun center, and a popular amusement park. My next task will be to contact these businesses and see if they are willing to participate or contribute to the program. I am hoping these businesses will be willing to donate prizes like a free meal, round of mini golf, or maybe even an admission ticket for the students who make it all the way to 30 miles. I think these types of prizes will serve as an incentive along with the foot charms they have been collecting. As the year progresses, I will probably need to add more stops, depending on how far the students go. This will take some time to set up, but with a little effort, you can create a fun program your school can use year after year! Be creative and think about what is around your school, and empower your students to help come up with the goal destination! At our school there are plenty of parent volunteers who want to help out from home, and helping to set up a program like this might be a perfect fit for them.
This is just the beginning of my idea, which I am sure will need a lot of tweaking to make it work just right. I’ll keep you updated on my progress with the planning on our Facebook and Twitter pages. If your school might be supportive of a project like this, you and your students can help start a school-wide push for some physical activity. If not, you can always implement it in a smaller scale in your own classroom, and who knows…It might just catch on. Just search on a map to see what neat places your students can “run,” Or let your class do the searching so their destinations are even more enticing. There are many other great ideas out there, and whatever can motivate students and teachers to be active and have fun will be the best fit for your school.
Is your school promoting any activities to help students improve their physical fitness? We would love to hear about what is working (or not working) around the world. Good luck, and tell your students to keep up the good work.
~Peggy's Corner - 10/1/2010~