How a growing number of states are hoping to improve kids’ brains: exercise

Originally published Feb. 21, 2018 in The Hechinger Report.

By Lilian Mongeau

APPLETON, Wisc. — Middle school students at Kaleidoscope Academy, a district charter school in Appleton, Wisconsin, are constantly moving. Everyone has a physical education class, called “phy-ed” here, at least twice a week. On top of that, there’s a daily lunch break that comes with time for kids to get outside and move around. Students can also choose from two additional exercise-focused electives — dance and personal fitness — which for some students can mean a 40-minute exercise period every day.

And the action doesn’t stop there. Teachers like Lisa Sackman in the sixth-grade wing offer “brain breaks” every 20 minutes. Teacher Travis Olsen has an exercise bike in the back of his seventh-grade science classroom that kids are welcome to use whenever they feel the need. And eighth-grade co-teachers Abby Jolma and Toni Giebel let kids sit on wobbly chairs — short stools with a curved base — yoga balls, or traditional chairs while they learn math and science.

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MCPS Teachers Champion Bill To Boost Elementary School P.E. Curriculum

Originally published Feb. 8, 2018 in Bethesda Magazine.


Matt Slatkin and Shannon Spencer, two physical education teachers at Newport Mill Middle School in Kensington, are heading to Annapolis to lobby for more student exercise.

Not for the middle-schoolers they teach, but for the students who haven’t yet arrived.

“We get them after elementary school. We would love to get them in better shape,” Spencer said.

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Blount County P.E. teacher turns fidget spinners into exercise equipment

Originally published Feb. 18, 2018 in The Daily Times.

By Amy Beth Miller

Leesa Taylor may be the only teacher who encourages students to use fidget spinners in her class.

While educators across the nation have banned the small spinning toys in classrooms and entire schools, Taylor bought several herself so students could use them in her physical education classes at Prospect and Rockford Elementary Schools.

In a classroom, the three-armed top with a weighted central disk can be a distraction or even dangerous, if students lose control while attempting a trick.

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PE is a more important school subject than history, British study finds

Originally published Feb. 15, 2018 in The Telegraph.

By Helena Horton

The British public thinks it is more important secondary school children have PE lessons than study history, according to a study by YouGov.

The survey asked British adults which subjects they felt were the most important to study in schools, and physical education ranked more highly than many other subjects, including history and religious education.

Out of 1,648 respondents, 42 percent ranked PE as very important, compared to 39 percent who think history is very important and 12 percent for religious studies.

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After two years, West Des Moines schools switch to IHT Spirit technology

“This is what we need to do to help students be healthy and fit for life. If we don’t provide the necessary tools, we are doing the students a disservice.”

Aug. 3, 2017 – Two years ago, Brian Rhoads implemented a pilot program to study heart rate in his physical education classes at Valley Southwoods Freshman High School (West Des Moines, Iowa). The program continues this school year district-wide in all 13 of West Des Moines’ campuses but with IHT Spirit System equipment.

“We piloted a program using [a heart rate technology company’s] chest strap monitors in our 9th grade building,” Rhoads said. “The next year we tried out [the same company’s] wrist monitors, but they weren’t multi-user friendly in a school of 700 students.”

To meet the needs of their innovative program, Rhoads used research and analysis to convince West Des Moines’ leadership to switch to the IHT Spirit System, complete with assessment software, to be used throughout the district. As the new K-12 PE Curriculum Leader for the district, Rhoads saw a better fit for the district’s needs: the adidas ZONE for IHT Spirit wrist heart rate monitors and the IHT Spirit Assessment Measures software. He estimates that 7,500 students will use the heart rate monitors this year.

Brian Rhoads

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