Originally published Sept. 10, 2017 in the Record-Eagle.

Munson awards TCAPS $42K to grow ‘movement labs’

TRAVERSE CITY — Mary Radecki knows a little bit of movement can go a long way to getting kids’ brains pumping.

The physical education teacher at Traverse City Area Public Schools Central Grade Elementary sees it firsthand working with kindergartners in the school’s movement lab — a program that combines exercise with reading and writing lessons into games to keep kids’ brains and bodies active.

“After they’re active, their brains are on fire,” Radecki said. “They’re ready to learn.”

movementMunson Healthcare recently awarded TCAPS a $42,000 grant to expand those movement labs into kindergarten and first-grade classes at Central Grade and Cherry Knoll elementary schools.

“It’s an exciting grant,” said TCAPS Superintendent Paul Soma. “We know from personal experience that 6- and 7-year-old kids aren’t designed to sit behind a desk all day long. If they’re active and moving, they’re more prepared to learn.”

Central Grade has offered the movement lab to kindergarten classes for the last three years with good results, said Cindy Berk, TCAPS executive director of human resources.

“They were analyzing increased movement as it relates to improved student achievement scores and they’ve started seeing positive trends,” Berk said. “They’re interested to see if they can replicate that in other schools.”

The 30-minute movement labs run three days a week in conjunction with bi-weekly gym classes to ensure kids are active at least once every day of the week.

“This is just one piece of what this region is doing to address childhood obesity,” Berk said. “When we just look at the long term effects on student achievement and overall health, that’s pretty exciting.”

The labs are taught by physical education teachers like Radecki, but they differ from gym class in that they infuse reading and writing lessons into exercises that students do in rotating 2-minute “centers.”

“At one center they have to do spinning exercises to get letters to make rhyming words, at another they’re walking on a ladder and reading words in between rungs,” Radecki said. “We also do a center where they write.”

Berk said TCAPS will continue to monitor improvement of students using the movement labs in the new elementary schools in hopes of expanding the program further.

“I would like all of our kindergartners to have physical education five days a week,” Radecki said.

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