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.

Prior to Every Lap Counts, students who arrived early to school would go to the media center and read, or sit quietly and socialize with their peers. Given the research regarding physical activity and its ability to enhance students’ academics, we decided to SPARK a morning running program. Now, before school, students have the opportunity to elevate their heart rates while they run or walk, helping the brain reach its peak performance.

Every. Single. Morning.

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 and are better at managing their moods, resulting in fewer mood swings.
Students run, walk, and/or jog on the track

Every Lap Counts 

The program is simple. Any students in 1st–6th Grades who arrives between 7:30 and 7:40 are allowed to drop off their backpacks in their classrooms and head directly to the track. Students in pre-k and kindergarten are allowed to join us as long as a parent accompanies them. In an effort to foster lifelong fitness, we encourage parents of all students to participate. 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.

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 also hand out toe tokens once a month for all students who participate in the program.


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.

Students look forward to checking the tally board each day
Parents often join the action!

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

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10 NOODLE Activities to Embolden Your Arsenal


When Steve Hartman invented the pool noodle three decades ago, I bet he had no idea they would become one of the most cost-effective, beneficial tools in nearly every physical education teacher’s arsenal. Below are ten of my all-time favorite pool noodle activities. Be sure to comment on your favorite pool noodle games below!

Check out my previous post called Tag Games Using Hoops and Noodles!

*If embedded videos do not show up on your device, click the name of each activity for a link to the video.

Pool Sharks

Pool Sharks has become a noodle favorite with our students. It begins as a partner activity with one partner on each side of a hula hoop, each with a noodle pool cue. From about 5-10 feet away, they take turns shooting the ball into the hoop. Students experiment with different ways to hold the stick as they work on accuracy and pace.

Next, I spread out hula hoops around the gym floor. Students can move freely around the gym shooting at each hoop. I give them the freedom to choose the distance.

Video Credit: Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin)

Noodle Sprockets

Noodle Sprockets is a fun fitness-based activity which works in groups of 2-4 students. However, I always begin with partners. Not only does this activity increase heart rates, but it also challenges students to think strategically. Especially in groups of three and four, students need to slow down and maneuver themselves to avoid jumping into each other. It’s always exciting for me to observe groups as they gradually develop a rhythm and jump their way across the floor.

Noodle Walkers

Noodle Walkers is actually a student discovery. It looks like the old-fashioned wheelbarrow race but is actually easier on the hands and wrists. Students find it to be even more fun. It shouldn’t be a surprise when your students fill the gym with laughter and excitement while increasing heart rates and working on physical strength.

The Great Spaghetti Incident

How many pieces of spaghetti can each team move across the kitchen without using their hands and without allowing the spaghetti to hit the floor? After dropping the spaghetti into the colander, the team retrieves another piece of spaghetti and attempts to move it across the kitchen using a different method. Encourage open, positive communication and teamwork during this fast-paced cooperative activity. Don’t forget to process during and after the game.

Pogo Stick Tag

Aren’t noodles fun? Seeking creative ways to use our noodles, one student discovered that his hopping motion reminded him of his pogo stick at home. Brilliant! Let’s play Pogo Stick Tag! Every student has a noodle. For my classes of twenty, I break them into groups of five. Each group receives a certain color. I choose one color to be it. If a student is tagged by the chosen color, she walks to the sideline and completes ten repetitions of a predetermined exercise, then reenters the game. After one minute, I choose another color to be it.

Noodle Whirlers

1/3 of the students are NOODLE WHIRLERS. The Noodle Whirler’s mission is to hop over to any standing cylinder and knock it down by jumping and spinning the noodle into it. It’s like a baseball bat striking a ball. The other 2/3 of the class must pick up the noodle using two Lummi sticks. No Lummi sticks? No problem! Instead, use paddles, or short noodles, or even elbows! Make it your own!

Noodle Fitness Creations

So many of my noodle activities have come from this activity. Students are challenged to create exercises using noodles. This is another fun, teambuilding activity geared to make fitness fun.

Video Credit: Jedd Austin (@jeddaustin)

Noodle Transfer

How many ways can you transfer the noodle across the gym without using your hands? The noodle must be touching both of you. To observe young minds at work throughout this activity will without a doubt put a smile on any teacher’s face.

4-Team Noodle Hockey Clean Up

I use this activity during our manipulatives unit. I set up four even teams. Each team has its own color noodle and goal. I spread out a bucket of balls on one end of the gym and each of the four goals, backward, on the opposite end. On the signal, students move the balls across the floor and shoot it into their own goal. The goals are backward to prevent full court shots. I encourage the students to move quickly and safely while maintaining control of the ball. “Be alert since there are so many of you moving at once!” After each goal, students run back to retrieve another ball.

Team Building Noodle Walk

Create teams of four. Taking turns, each team tries to step across the boundaries (water) touching only the noodles. Teammates who are not walking on the noodles must reposition the noodles for the walker. When a partner makes it across the “water” successfully, another teammate attempts to do the same. I encourage groups to explore a variety of ways to complete the challenge. Remind students that it’s not a race.

There you have it! 10 noodle activities which will hopefully embolden your arsenal!

Be sure to check your local dollar stores and big box stores toward the end of the swim season. I recently found noodles for $0.22 each.

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For the Love of Exercise – February Fitness Challenge


The trusty JUMP ROPE once again grabs the spotlight for February’s Flourish with Fitness Challenge. For the Love of Exercise is designed to increase awareness of all the benefits from jumping rope. Jump rope is one of the most effective cardiovascular exercises. Along with benefits to the heart, jump rope also enhances coordination, agility, and strengthens bones, arms, legs, and core.

For the Love of Exercise also offers other exercises to help enhance full body fitness. Throughout the month, participants will be challenged with exercises including plank, squats, and burpees, where the degree of difficulty gradually increases week by week.

The workouts posted on the calendar can be adapted to fit the fitness level of each participant. Students may need to perform fewer repetitions on a given day due to fatigue or if they’re physically not ready.

This workout is an excellent opportunity for jump rope beginners to strengthen their jump rope ability. I encourage beginner jumpers to persevere. If you put in a little work each day, your ability will increase steadily. For the advanced jumpers, you are encouraged to push yourselves and even try the more difficult challenges demonstrated in the video below.

CHECK THIS OUT! Below is a Blowing off S.T.E.A.M project I created for my students. Here, they are challenged to use available household materials to create their own jump rope.

(Click Blowing Off STEAM in PE  for an editable copy of the challenge!)

Click For the Love of Exercise for access to the challenge.

Click CERTIFICATE for access to the FOR the LOVE of EXERCISE participation certificate.

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