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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation
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Students Focus on Both Mind and Body

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert

Evidence-based research has convinced Lydia Trinidad, principal at Hawaii's Kualapu'u Elementary School, that in addition to concentrating on meeting the mandates of No Child Left Behind, she has to promote health awareness in her students and teach them that physical activity and proper nutrition are as important as academics. Current statistics reveal that by 2010, almost 50 percent of America's children will be obese. Research also shows that almost two-thirds of American children do little or no physical activity.

Kualapu'u is located in the town of the same name on Molokai, Hawaii's fifth-largest island, and because of the island's small population -- about 7,000 people -- many Hawaiians perceive it as isolated and as one of the few remaining hubs of native culture. About 370 children, 91 percent of them either Hawaiian or part Hawaiian, attend the school, and 75 percent of them receive free or reduced-cost lunches.

The school was in Adequate Yearly Progress restructuring status under NCLB, which means it was an underperforming school. However, the school's administrators, teachers, and students worked together to reverse this standing, and after two years, their hard work paid off. Recently, Kualapu'u received the status of unconditional good standing, the highest level a school can achieve. In addition to maintaining this hard-earned new academic excellence, the school's educators are now focused on improving the quality of their students' daily lives, and part of that focus is on fitness.

Last year, based on ten students, Kualapu'u established a baseline of an eight-minute mile for fifth and sixth graders. At the end of the 2007-08 school year, those ten students were able to complete a one-mile run/walk with no time limit. Kualapu'u wants to replicate that success this year with the other ninety fifth- and sixth-grade students; the goal of the project, called No Child Left with a Behind, is for all of them to be able to complete a no-time-limit one-mile run/walk. The physical education teacher will work with the other educators to encourage students to run or walk each day to help reach that goal.

Nike recently donated a hundred pairs of running shoes to the school in support of the fitness program. Because most students wear flip-flop sandals, known in Hawaii as slippers, the students will keep their running shoes at school, and they are responsible for caring for them.

How has your school addressed the rising rates of child obesity? What are some ways to use project learning to encourage exercise and healthy living for students? Please share your thoughts.

Dr. Katie Klinger

STEM & Digital Equity Grantwriter & Education Technology Integration Expert
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Comments (17)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

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PLAWLER's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Our school district has been the model for focusing on students fitness.I applaud Lydia for taken a stand on the importance of children s' health.

If the school stays committed to the fitness plan, they will eventually see other important benefits provided by exercise, improve academic performance and improved student behavior.

As stated in the article, projections for childhood obesity could go over 50%, in our district with 20,000 students, in 2004 our rate of overweight and obese students was under 5%.

We also worked closely with Harvard's top brain researcher Dr John Ratey to develop a pilot program called Learning Readiness PE. Yes the physical activity will improve students' academics. Plus the final bonus improved behavior.

For more information go to our website www.pe4life.org or www.johnratey.com

Dr. Katie Klinger's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Thanks for leading us to the book "Spark" at www.johnratey.com
I was also very intrigued to read about Woodland's (in Kansas City, MO) success with their students. It just makes sense that physical fitness (at moderate levels, of course) are beneficial to everyone, including our students. So happy to read your response. Katie

Millie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Wow, that would be great if all school administrators could see the importance that physical activity had an importance in a child's life. As a health and pe teacher it is hard to promote healthy lifestyles when your colleagues or principals do not realize the importance of it. Being physically active plays a major part in a child's life. Not only has it been shown to improve academics, but it also increases energy levels, allows students to feel good about themselves, and can help improve self-esteem. As a high school pe teacher, fortunately, there are three of us that work together to come up with new ways to keep teenagers interested in staying healthy. We have started to have "fitness" days that are every other day during a unit. The fitness is not just running, but involves other various activities and new trends toward workouts. We try to reach students on all levels since not all students like or want to run. We express how doing these different forms or exercise will increase their capabilities to run the mile later in the course, but want students to understand that being physically active can be fun and beneficial.

Jamie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Active learning should take on a new meaning. When most teachers hear active learning, they think of a think-pair-share activity, some type of brainstorming, a group game or even a writing prompt. Reading this article made me want to go and research different ways to teach lessons, incorporating physical movement. In the past, I have made hopscotch games on my floor for the students to use in a math or reading game. I also have taped 100's charts to the floor for physical movement. Those are the only times that I believe I have added physical activity to my lessons in a drastic way. This would be especially great for our kinesthetic learners, and it would make learning more fun. Does anyone have any ideas for making reading groups physically active without disturbing the rest of the class?

Jamie's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Active learning should take on a new meaning. When most teachers hear active learning, they think of a think-pair-share activity, some type of brainstorming, a group game or even a writing prompt. Reading this article made me want to go and research different ways to teach lessons, incorporating physical movement. In the past, I have made hopscotch games on my floor for the students to use in a math or reading game. I also have taped 100's charts to the floor for physical movement. Those are the only times that I believe I have added physical activity to my lessons in a drastic way. This would be especially great for our kinesthetic learners, and it would make learning more fun. Does anyone have any ideas for making reading groups physically active without disturbing the rest of the class?

Sarah's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a great idea! I love the idea of incorporating physical movement into lessons. I like the idea of including more than a few students in your school in the challenge, this makes it so much fun for everyone. I love to try and incorporate movement into my lessons. I have observed a teacher teaching a spelling lesson and in order to spell the words they must move their bodies. The students must stand behind their chairs and spell the words out loud, for example if they are spelling the word; illegal, for a vowel they place there hands on their hips for a tall letter like "l" they reach for the sky and from a low letter like "g" they bend at the knees and touch the ground. This makes the boring spelling lesson exciting because the students are moving and spelling the words out loud. This also helps to reach more than one kind of learner in the classroom.

mindy's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Making Reading groups physically active
I am currently working on my Masters in Education and working as a substitute teacher in Corning NY. It is tricky to find some sort of physical activity students can take part in during reading groups. One activity that gets students on their feet and moving during reading groups is putting on a play. I have seen this done by another teacher who teaches first grade. She uses a separate space in their classroom away from quiet reading groups to put on these plays. It does take some monitoring and teaching students how to work together without getting too loud. Even though it takes some effort from you, it is worth it because you will witness your students get so excited about dressing up and reading their script during these plays. I know that this might not seem like a lot of physical activity, however it involves more activity than paper and pencil work. Also, it involves the use of multimodal instruction which is a highly effective way of teaching. As part of my coursework, I have read an article titled Brain Research and Education: Fad or Foundation?. In the article Wolfe (2003, Fall) explains "Since memories are reconstructed, the more ways students have the information represented in the brain (through seeing, hearing, being involved with, etc.), the more pathways they have for reconstructing, the richer the memory." By engaging your students in active learning, you are representing information in many different ways. As a result your students will be more likely recall what they have learned.
Article: Wolfe, P. (2003, Fall). Brain-compatible learning: Fad or foundation?

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