When Brooke Hopkins began teaching PE at Macedonia Elementary School in 2015, students’ physical activity consisted of a PE class and a short recess. Knowing the benefits physical activity has on health, academics and discipline, Hopkins was determined to increase opportunities for it while also teaching its significance. At the same time, Macedonia’s PTA was looking for ways to increase the health and wellness initiatives for their students, staff members and families. Over the past three years, students, staff members and the PTA have teamed up to offer multiple programs and activities to students and families that have brought about positive change in their school community.
Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, Macedonia Elementary increased its focus on physical activity through several programs that are still in place. To infuse physical activity throughout the entire school, staff members and their students were trained on how to integrate more physical activity in the classroom by implementing brain booster activities, such as GoNoodle. These brain booster activities, short physical activity opportunities with little-to-no equipment, help to increase the attention, focus and productivity of students by allowing more movement opportunities.
“We use GoNoodle in the classroom after sitting for a while, and the children love doing one or two of them to get up and move and not be sedentary,” said Mrs. Alhadeff, Kindergarten teacher at Macedonia. “It helps so much to get them up and moving, and they are more focused afterward.”
Additionally, a Healthy Cats Club was established to offer students in fourth and fifth grades additional opportunities to participate in physical activities after school. In the years following, Macedonia increased recess times across all grade levels, added play space and equipment for recess and established the annual “Family Fun Fitness Night and Health Fair” to promote physical activity and to connect families with community health resources.
Students have thoroughly enjoyed the addition of physical activity opportunities at their school.
“Healthy Cats Club helps us learn about good foods to eat and helps us to be active,” said Walker, fifth grade student.
“I liked all the different activities at Family Fitness Night and how we used a chart to keep track of the activities we completed,” said MaryJo, fourth grade student.
In addition to increasing physical activity opportunities at Macedonia, the PTA also worked on establishing a school learning garden in spring 2016. The learning garden is used to teach students how to plant, nurture and harvest fresh, organically-grown fruits and vegetables. Teachers continue to use this garden to help students make real word connections with the curriculum they are learning in the classroom. Everything grown in the garden is sent to the cafeteria to be served to students throughout the year as a part of their “Farm to school” movement.
“I love how the cafeteria shares our harvests during lunch allowing students to try vegetables like bell pepper, cucumber, tomatoes and fresh herbs,” said Mrs. Rich, fourth grade teacher.
Teachers and students are seeing the benefits of increased attention and focus and fewer behavioral incidences in classrooms. Overall enjoyment of physical activity has improved and students and families are excited about these changes. Students who have taken part in the Healthy Cats Club have worked to promote health and wellness throughout the school and have become ambassadors for the cause. Students are also excited about eating fruits and vegetables grown in their school garden. Macedonia is eager to continue these initiatives for years to come.