Every Lap Counts: A Simple Supplement to P.E. and Recess

“What it means is that you have the power to change your brain. All you have to do is lace up your running shoes.”
― John J. RateySpark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain

 

 

Every Lap Counts. This is the name of the program a colleague and I spearheaded two years ago to give our students an opportunity to walk, jog, and/or run on our track before school. Inspired by the book Spark, by John Ratey, which describes how the brain is nourished by exercise, we wanted to provide an outlet for our students to exercise before school.

Spark

Prior to Every Lap Counts, the only options for students who arrived early to school were to go the media center and read, or sit quietly and socialize with their peers. Based on the research regarding physical activity and its ability to enhance students’ academics, we decided to provide a program where elevating heart rates could assist the brain in reaching its peak performance.

Every Lap Counts – Influential Factors:

  • Research indicates that exercise makes us mentally sharper, and also shows that students score higher on math and reading comprehension tests after exercising for 20 minutes.
  • Studies have found that kids who exercise are more confident.
  • Many studies have found that kids who exercise feel happier, are better at managing their moods, and have fewer mood swings.
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Students run, walk, and/or jog on the track

Every Lap Counts 

The program is simple. Any student in 1st–6th Grades who arrives between 7:30 and 7:40 are allowed to drop off their backpacks in their classroom and head directly to the track. Students in pre-k and kindergarten are allowed to join us as long as a parent accompanies them. We encourage parents of all students to participate, encouraging lifelong, family fitness. From 7:30-7:50 students can walk, jog and/or run on the track. On some days students have the option to do baton relays and sprints.

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Each laminated strip of paper represents 1 lap

***As an added challenge, I recently implemented the optional 1-mile challenge. Students can come out and run a mile each morning. I promised that each week I’d post every student’s name that completed at least one mile in the hallway outside our gymnasium. Honestly, I only expected a handful of takers for the challenge. On Monday, out of the 46 students on the track, 14 of them ran the mile. I was blown away. Amazingly, the number of milers more than doubled on Tuesday and again on Wednesday. By the end of the week 68 different runners ran 133 total miles. More impressive to me was the breakdown.

  • 1st Grade – 20 students
  • 2nd Grade – 10 students
  • 3rd Grade – 18 students
  • 4th Grade – 13 students
  • 5th Grade – 8 students

Students of all ages were motivated to take the 1-mile challenge. Some were inclined to run 2 miles. At the same time students who came out to the track who didn’t take the challenge were still celebrated for starting their day with exercise.

Students receive a toe token for every 5 miles they run.  I’ll also hand out toe tokens once a month for all students who participates in the program.

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Every Lap Counts is about movement, a simple opportunity for students to stimulate their bodies and brains through exercise, and a chance to socialize with friends prior to the rigor of the normal school routine.

Every Lap Counts has become a favorite part of my day. I am in awe and overcome with pride each morning as an average of 60 students join me on the track for this supplement to recess and physical education.

 Perhaps some of you already have successful morning movement programs, and can relate to the pride I exude for students at my school. If so, please let me know! Maybe together, we can inspire other schools to do the same.

***Update:  It has now been 6 months since I implemented the 1-mile challenge.  Our students have logged almost 1,500 miles.  Some runners have posted over 50 miles on their own.  Each Friday, I post the student and class mileage totals outside our gymnasium.  Often, there will be a crowd gathered with students proudly searching for their names.

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EVERY LAP COUNTS TALLY BOARD

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Griffin, R. Morgan. “Exercise: Good for Your Kid’s Brain.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 21 Nov. 2015.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion

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Leading by Example: Guiding our Kids to Lifelong Fitness

Children are remarkably perceptive. Today, the old adage, “Do as I say, not as I do” is being pushed to the proverbial back-burner with parents and educators striving to lead children by example on a journey to lifelong fitness.

Our PE team recently witnessed this as we led an assembly at our school called Fitness Time Together. The entire school community including students, faculty, and staff were invited to the gym to participate in a group fitness routine and take part in a discussion about leading a healthy lifestyle.

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Here’s the overview:

  • Coach Brian opened the assembly by talking about the importance of being active and eating healthily.
  • Coach Austin followed with a 4-minute high intensity interval-training workout designed for our students. Picture this: over 700 adults and students all working out together in our gym. An incredible sight!

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  • After the workout, it was my turn to close the assembly.

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I first asked all the adults to raise their hands if they planned to exercise sometime during the day (excluding what we just did). To my delight, practically every adult in the room proudly raised their hand. I then asked the students to raise their hands if their parents exercised. I had just hit the fitness jackpot. A sea of hands immediately reached for the sky. I instructed the students to look around and notice all the hands, emphasizing how many adults in their lives are taking care of themselves by exercising. I especially wanted the students to notice that if all their teachers and their parents are exercising, then it must be important, and that they were most likely exercising to be as healthy as possible for as long as possible.

Then it dawned on me during the assembly at my school, that as much as we need to discuss healthy living with kids, it is equally, if not more important, to lead by example. If our children see us exercising regularly and making healthy food choices then they are living in a healthy environment. Within this culture, healthy living will more likely become habit. I recalled my own childhood when my mom refused to buy “sugar cereals” or pop-tarts with frosting. She was constantly reading the labels on everything she bought to ensure we would keep our teeth and grow up to be healthy adults. Now that I have my own children, you’ll never find “sugar cereals” or pop-tarts with frosting in our pantry. Lesson learned mom!

At a time when technology has the potential to dominate our day, it is our obligation to encourage children to go outside in the fresh air, and take care of themselves.

As PE teachers, my team and I preach fitness and try to keep our program chock full of fresh ideas to help maintain a positive level of motivation. Along with parents, we encourage our students to seize opportunities to simply play. Play outside during recess, join school-wide running programs or teams, and enjoy unstructured play at home.

Last week before leaving work, I received a call from my 10-year old. He wanted to know if I would go for a run with him when I got home. Proud Papa Alert! Of course I’ll run with you. Later my older son and daughter wanted to play tennis. So far, mission accomplished. My wife and I lead healthy, active lives, and realize that how our children craft their character and lifestyle is firmly determined by the example we provide.


If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

A PE Conference at YOUR School? Wisdom Surrounds You!

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Some of the teachers in attendance at our first Keeping Kids in Motion conference

In 2011, my colleagues and I decided to host a mini PE conference at our school. We invited PE professionals from surrounding schools to come and take part in an event we called Keeping Kids in Motion. The idea was to provide a no-cost opportunity for teachers to share lessons with each other based on a predetermined theme. For the first year, my colleagues and I decided to feature cooperative activities.

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Cover to our 2011 lesson packet

Instead of paying a registration fee, guests only needed to email us 2 lesson ideas based on cooperation prior to the event. We would compile the collection of lesson plans into a packet to give each attendee upon leaving the conference.   Each teacher would also be required to teach at least one of their lessons during the conference. The other teachers, of course, would be the students.

With 21 guests from 12 schools in attendance, our first Keeping Kids in Motion was a success. Each of us shared and discussed several lessons while brainstorming ideas on how to adapt them for different ages and learners. At the conclusion of the gathering each teacher was chock full of fresh ideas ready to incorporate into their curriculum.  My colleagues and I immediately began brainstorming ideas for the future of Keeping Kids in Motion.

The next 3 conferences followed a very similar format. We’d meet in a conference room for brief round table discussion over a continental breakfast before heading to the gym for lesson sharing. The themes for the following years were:

2012 Dynamic Lesson to enhance our Sports Units

2013 Movement from Start to Finish – keeping students moving throughout the class

2014 The Best of the Best, which focused on each teacher’s favorite overall physical education games. These were games that every PE teacher should have in their arsenal.

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Attendees received a hard copy and a digital copy of all the lessons

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Keeping Kids in Motion quickly became a beneficial and cost effective resource for my colleagues and me. We now have a network of like-minded professionals who can reach out to each other for ideas and lessons when needed.

Take advantage of all the wisdom surrounding us! Build a network of peers who share a passion for enhancing their teaching craft! Provide a NO-Cost outlet for teachers to learn and share from each other. KEEP IT LOCAL! It worked for us and it could work for you.


If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

A Blast from the Past: Reliving Gym Class from the 1980s

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For Halloween, my two fellow PE teachers and I wanted to dress up for our school’s annual costume contest.  We wanted to enter the “team” category but couldn’t nail down a theme.  That is, until I saw the video below for the Goldbergs TV show.  

This gem of a clip, inspired us to portray PE teachers from the early 1980’s.  We crafted our costumes based on our own memories of PE teachers we experienced growing up.  I personally searched the internet and was shocked that I could still find the original Bike brand polyester shorts that my high school teacher wore religiously.  The shorts even had the button strap on top, and their trademark tiny pockets that, today would be ideal for a fit bit zip, but I think our teachers may have just had an emergency quarter for a payphone.  Unfortunately the only available sizes were nowhere small enough for the classic 80s fit so I had to settle for the next best thing, Wilson. Pointless pockets were there but no button strap. I later found the 5-panel foam/mesh trucker’s cap fashioned by my aforementioned grade school teacher on days we had PE outdoors.  Didn’t every teacher don the 3-striped tube socks hiked up to the knees?  Of course.  So, along with my aviator glasses, a stop watch, a pair of very white sneakers, and a red playground ball, my costume was complete.  PE Teacher:  1982.  My colleagues and I immediately drew a lot of attention, as expected.  Unexpected was the array of reactions from parents, teachers, and students throughout the day.

Here are some of the comments:

  1. Wow!  I had a PE teacher just like that growing up.
  2. Can I tell you how much I hated PE growing up?
  3. Your shorts aren’t short enough for the 80’s.
  4. I am still haunted by the bruises I received playing dodge ball.
  5. Why DID they wear those shorts?
  6. I loved PE.  I miss those days.
  7. Are you kidding me with that outfit?
  8. Can we play dodge ball right now?
  9. What are you supposed to be?
  10. Or one of my favorites:  The sound of awkward, uneasy laughter.

Number 9 was the common response from our 1st-6th grade students, usually coupled by either a confusing or disgusted look. In fact, late in the day a first grade student asked, “Why are you still wearing that?”  Poor thing was frightened. Sorry guys!

To be honest, there were as many people who reminisced on their time in PE and shared stories of physical educators who were kind and caring while promoting healthy habits.

We truly enjoyed traveling back to the past and listening to the countless stories from our colleagues and parents regarding their experiences in “gym class” as it was often called.  It made me wonder how my present day and former students will remember me years down the road.  Hopefully, as fondly as I recall my elementary school gym teacher growing up.  He was funny, challenging, and very creative!  Thanks Mr. Meilinger.

As a side note, I now realize why PE teachers wore the polyester shorts.  They are SO comfortable!  If they make a come back, I’m in.  Let me know about your childhood Gym Class experiences…


The Goldbergs: Sneak Peek.YouTube. YouTube, n.d. Web. 08 Nov. 2015.

If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

Keeping Fitness Fresh in PE Class

If you look at the culture of adult fitness in today’s society, it won’t take long to realize boot camps, high-intensity interval training, Zumba, Yoga, CrossFit, and body weight training along with countless other challenging fitness methods are the modern day trends.  The key to these fitness trends is variety, and this variety is exactly what I feel motivates today’s students.

The challenge for PE teachers is how to make fitness challenging, yet fun and fresh.  Long gone are the days of sending students on a 5-minute jog before circling up for a static stretching routine, followed by a few push-ups and sit-ups.   Because such a workout is redundant, students will become bored, and quickly lose motivation.   Our goal is to promote lifelong fitness in PE, especially during our present-day epidemic of childhood obesity and type 2 diabetes. My colleagues and I are continuously searching for creative ways to motivate our students while making sure we’re focusing on fitness concepts, which include aerobic endurance, upper and lower body muscular strength and endurance, and flexibility.

AMRAP, or as many rounds as possible, is an exercise routine recently introduced to our students by Coach Jedd Austin. Using either our projector or a whiteboard we post the days workout. We list 5-7 different exercises, each with a certain number of repetitions. Students must do each of the exercises in order to complete 1 round. After each round is completed, they collect a red ticket to tally their rounds. At the end of the session, the students count their tickets, which tells them how many rounds they completed. We never celebrate the student with the most tickets. Instead, we encourage each student for his or her effort. This has become a favorite activity among our students due to the workout’s flexibility. We can focus on lower body exercises during one class, then upper body the next. Most times we vary the exercises to include all muscle groups. We can also adjust the number of repetitions and the duration of the exercise to fit the level of difficulty.

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Another addition to our fitness program is the Full Body Exercise Bank, essentially a grid of exercises, as you can see below. Each of the 8 rows has 4 exercises combining upper body, lower body, dynamic stretching, and aerobic endurance. Using a Tabata-Pro timer we’ll choose one of the 8 lanes and challenge the students to complete 3 cycles. We’ll usually vary the time of each exercise from 20-40 seconds depending on the grade level and degree of difficulty. Again due to the variety of exercises, we’ve seen increased motivation and effort from our students.

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It’s exciting to witness and be apart of the continuing evolution of physical education class.  By introducing our students to a variety of exercise routines like AMRAP, Fitness Banks, fitness-based tag games, and dances like Zumba we are helping motivate students today in order to promote fitness for a lifetime.


If you enjoyed this article and want to learn more of what I have to say about physical education and keeping kids in motion, follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/justybubpe.

Check out my Facebook group called Keeping Kids in Motion!

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