Contributed by Meghan Sullivan
Days at the beach, walks to the park, trips to the local zoo or museum – when it comes to summer, there are a number of ways to get our students out and about and to integrate a bit of physical activity into family fun.
But when the summer sun starts to wane and the routine of a new school year sets in, kids’ activity levels start to decrease. Statistics from the U.S. Department of Human Services show that only 1 in 3 children is physically active each day, and that the average child spends about 7 hours in front of a screen daily.
Schools can be a powerful place to combat this, but most traditional physical education programs do not incorporate enough activity to meet the recommended 60 minutes. The CDC’s research, for instance, shows that only 27 percent of high school students attain the recommend amount, and that only 3.7 percent of K-12 schools mandate daily physical education in the first place.
This lack of physical activity has serious implications for our students’ well being. As illustrated in information provided by the CDC, physical inactivity leads to obesity, disease and lower cognitive performance. Students should engage in physical activity in order to feel and perform their best.
As a result, it’s important to find fun and easy ways to bring physical activity into our school routines as we look to the 2018-2019 school year. Listed below are some of our ideas on how parents, teachers and administrators can work together to make this year a happier and healthier one for students.
- Hit the Pavement: Walking to school is a time-honored tradition that easily boosts physical activity, and the National Center for Safe Routes to School’s “Walk to School Day” celebrates this healthy habit. The Center also provides resources on biking to school, information on safe routes and ideas for year-round events and lesson plans on their website.
- Celebrate the Spirit of “Field Day” Year-Round: Most schools throw a field day for their students at the end of the year, and the extended time spent outside playing games is something students all get excited about. PTOToday’s list of field day activities is a great place to start for activities you can use throughout the entire year to get the whole class recharged.
- Integrate Movement into the Classroom: Although recess is important, the whole day can’t be spent outside. Instead, teachers can utilize quick and educational energizer activities to get students more active and ready to learn. Products like Ergotron’s LearnFit standing desks also offer students an opportunity to refocus by simply standing up. It’s an easy way to break up a day of learning in the classroom, especially for students who have trouble sitting still.
- Fuse Fundraising with Fitness: While bake sales and candy bars are a tasty way to raise funds for schools, they’re not exactly healthy. The CDC offers a list of healthier (and more fun) ways to plan fundraising events, such as through walk-a-thons and basketball tournaments (teachers vs. parents, anyone?).
- Implement New (or Strengthen Existing) Physical Education Programs: At the end of the day, P.E. programs are still a fantastic way to get kids moving and to instill an appreciation for physical activity in our students. SHAPE America’s Teacher’s Toolbox provides a wealth of lesson plans, curriculum ideas and professional development resources on how to make your programs most effective.
We at EFP hope that the rest of your summer is filled with activity-filled family fun, and that the spirit of this fun extends well into the upcoming school year!