FARMINGTON, Minn. -- A Twin Cities area school has won a big award for a program it developed to keep students fit. And that program includes elements you can use to help keep your kids stay active over summer break.
While some U.S. schools have gotten rid of physical education classes, Meadowview Elementary is incorporating activity throughout the day by adding short bursts of exercise in the classroom and weaving academics into physical education class.
Fourth grade teacher Jennifer Molitor said, "I think it helps them to become better learners and listeners."
But the activity doesn't stop there.
Meadowview physical education teacher Joe McCarthy says, "the fitter you are, the higher IQ you are going to have as well." So he developed a program to keep his students active after school "because the latest research says that at age ten, 86 percent of kids who are overweight are going to remain overweight," McCarthy says.
It's called the Century Club and it is a big part of why Meadowview just won a $25,000 award from the Active Schools Acceleration Project, locally sponsored by HealthPartners. Meadowview was chosen for having the top school program in the midwest to reduce obesity.
McCarthy says "the great aspect of this program is that you can do any activity you want if I like dancing I can dance, if I want to go out and play football with my friends I can play football with my friends."
Students get daily points for being active at home. Fourth grader Tommy Gallagher says "I like how you can do fun activities and still stay healthy like soccer. I like soccer and track."
Students get two points for 15 minutes of activities that raise the heart rate like dancing or soccer, and one point for those not as strenuous such as walking the dog or gardening.
Rewards are given along the way with a goal of 100 points to get a Century Club t-shirt.
The Century Club is in addition to McCarthy's Running Club held for students during recess. In that club, students get credit for running two laps at recess. In the classroom, he also uses an outside program called a "Jammin' Minute" where fifth graders visit younger classrooms for a minute and lead them in exercise to give students a brain break during academic activities.
All this activity doesn't stop when the school year ends. McCarthy has created student calendars for the summer with daily suggestions for a physical activity and a healthy snack or a food to try.
Activity suggestions include raking leaves, horse shoes and chasing your dog. Daily suggestions of foods to try include zucchini bread, pumpkin muffins and jalapenos.
Fourth grader Haley Wald loves the program. "I've done more exercise because I know that it's fun and it's good.," she said. McCarthy's goal is to create healthy habits in his students that will last a lifetime.
If you want your student to be active this summer, please visit McCarthy's page. You'll find ways to keep your kids active in the left hand column of the page under "Physical Activities/Nutritional Calendars for the Summer."
In mid-June, McCarthy goes to D.C. to see if his program has won one of two larger Active Schools Acceleration Project prizes of 100,000 dollars and a chance for the program to be replicated nationwide.
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