We love to highlight schools that have raised the bar in getting students active and healthy. PE teacher and Coach Brandon Wolff shares his story on how Let’s Move! Active Schools encourages fitness and physical activity at Maize South Middle School in Wichita, Kansas.
Here at Maize South Middle School, I have put together a group of 20 students called the Let’s Move Club. This club worked on 5 different areas for our school. Those areas are:
A brain boost is a quick and effective way of focusing the physical and mental state of the students. Instead of sitting in their desks the whole class period, a brain boost can help energize and activate the students for learning. We use all kinds of brain boosts within the classroom. I like to categorize them into 2 different types, which are content area based and non-content area based. We like to give the teachers and students a mixture of both types. I knew I could get some teachers to use brain boost by explaining ways to get the students up out of their chairs, but still focusing on their content area. A great example is a brain boost called Fast Math. Students stand up and face a partner, and both students put their hands behind their back. On the word go, both students will show a number of fingers on their hands. The student that can add up the number on their hand and their partners hand the fastest wins, and then they play again. There are great variations for this activity as well. For example, use only one hand only or students have to subtract or even multiply the numbers. The non-content area brain boosts are also a great way to get kids active within the classroom setting. The feedback I received from teachers on brain boosts was how easy it was to put in place and that students were more focused on the assignment after the boosts. We shared these brain boosts lots of different ways, including going to teacher PLC’s, visiting classrooms during the day, and going on live broadcasts for the whole school.
My goal with Let’s Move, Active schools a few years ago was to incorporate more physical activity throughout the school day. The fitness calendar was a way to make it happen. Every student was given a calendar page for the month. At the beginning of the month, my club would demonstrate the exercise that would be used for the calendar during the morning broadcast. During the day students could challenge a friend or teacher to that exercise. Let’s say the exercise is the plank. Students would ask the teacher during passing period or a down time to watch them perform that exercise. Once the students are done, the teacher will sign the calendar on that certain day. Students try to fill up their calendars by the end of the month and turn them into the office. I would then randomly select 4 completed calendars for prizes for that month. Every month the exercise will change to something new. The fitness calendar has been a good way for students to get extra physical activity, plus the students like getting the teachers involved with the challenge. It has been fun to watch the student and teacher interaction.
As for spreading the word about this program, I had some club members write for the monthly school newsletter and an ongoing blog about Let’s Move! Active Schools. This newsletter goes out to the parents. The Let’s Move Club types up a little article about how we are getting students active. I believe that parents have a big component of their child’s overall health. By communicating to parents with ideas of being active, we could spark these discussions at home. Plus we get to share accomplishments and activities we are trying to do in school with Let’s Move! Active Schools.
One of the biggest accomplishments that the club helped with was getting recess! I have to give the credit to the Let’s Move Active Schools of Kansas for offering a free workshop through a grant from the Kansas Health Foundation. This workshop was for my administrator, a classroom teacher, and myself. It opened the eyes of my administrator to see the importance of not just Let’s Move! Active Schools, but also recess for our students. Once I had my administrator on board, my club started the planning process. The students helped with designing activities for recess and getting equipment set out and picked up. We started brainstorming for recess activities, such as Spikeball, Strike Ball, 4 Square, Kan Jam, Flag Football, and Soccer. The club wanted to choose activities students enjoy, and also have enough activities for everyone. With the help of our PTO and administrator, I was able to purchase recess equipment.
We also provide an after school program where students can be physically active for an hour after school. At first, it started as a running club for the students, but after hearing feedback from the kids about how some didn’t like to run, we changed it to a program where kids can come run, walk and/or play! The program meets after school 3 days a week. The first year we had around 15 students come to run, and after the change we average around 120 students. Some of the activities the students participate in are running, walking, soccer, flag football, and ultimate Frisbee. I think it is great to see students want to come out and play!
The last thing we worked on was the Bull Rush, which is a whole school event. The MSMS Bull Rush is a 5K obstacle course testing the patience, strength, and endurance of each racer. The Bull Rush contains 15 obstacles strategically placed throughout the course. The race will feature a bronze, silver, and gold heat. The aim for the Bull Rush is to motivate students to meet or exceed criteria directly related to fitness testing assessments, and makes fitness testing meaningful. It also serves as a fun reward for students that went above and beyond meeting the requirements and gives them a goal to strive for. The students help with designing the course too!
Some of the obstacles are Black Hole, Rope Swing, Spider Wall, Rope Bridge, Slip N Slide, Maverick Mud Pen, Tractor Tire Tower, Watering Hole, Black Hole, Color Splash, Hardcore Hurdles, Bungee Spider Web, and Trip Up Tires. During Physical Education class, students are giving 3 opportunities to qualify by participating in a Pre-test, Mid-term test and Post-test. Students must meet or exceed certain criteria directly tied into PE class fitness testing scores to qualify for the Bull Rush. Based on those qualifying scores, students will be placed into three heats.
With this all day event, it took a lot of help from the community. Many local businesses reached out to help with donating money or material for the Bull Rush. During the event it was great to see many people for the school and local community come out and support the student runners. The students also helped with calling for donations from the community. We had 350 students qualify for the Bull Rush. We also put on a community run the next day as a fundraiser for heart rate monitors for our physical education students.
Here is a video of this year’s event:
About the Author – Brandon Wolff:
I have been teaching physical education and health for 15 years. I currently teach at Maize South Middle School. As a physical educator, my job inside and outside of the classroom is to promote students to be healthy physically, mentally and socially. This healthy lifestyle is established due to an exposure of a wide variety of activities which in turn promotes skills needed for self-directed learning and personal knowledge. I also enjoy coaching football, basketball and track. Some of my accomplishments are KAHPERD Middle School Teacher of the Year, 2015 Shape America Central District Middle School Teacher of the Year and Let’s Move in Active Schools National Award winner.