2 great examples of in-school initiatives that are getting kids moving (and loving it!)

ParticipACTION’s 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Children & Youth state that kids need to spend less time sitting, and that includes their school day. Meet some students, teachers, and school leaders who are choosing to take action.

WHAT ONE CLASS IS DOING

Jason Lloyd’s Grade 5/6 class at Desoronto Public School in Desoronto, Ontario started an active movement inspired by a classic gym class exercise: the burpee. Their physical activity challenge, aptly named “Burp It On”, consists of a collection of exercises (50 burpees, 100 jumping jacks, 3 minutes of wall sits, 3 minutes of planks, and 15 minutes of cardio) to be completed over the course of one week. The class’s website asks participating groups to register for tracking purposes, and they are encouraged to share the challenge by “burping it on” to others. Participants are also recruited and welcomed via the class’s Twitter account (@burp_it_on), which now has over 900 followers.

Over the last two years, a total of 436 schools and organizations from all over the world completed the “Burp It On” challenge, and Year 3 will kick off later this fall. In addition to the fitness benefits, Jason has witnessed his students evolve into physical activity ambassadors. “They have had the opportunity to create radio ads, make videos, and do presentations in our community,” he says. “Our students have become a real-life example of how one class in a little rural town can make a huge difference in increasing physical activity levels around the world.”

WHAT ONE SCHOOL IS DOING

At St. Agnes Catholic Elementary School in Waterloo, Ontario, the staff and school council go above and beyond to keep their 285 students active throughout the school year. Their fall fundraiser, called the Fitness Frenzy, assembles guests from local sports and fitness organizations for a one-day activity extravaganza. “We’ve had stations featuring judo, cheerleading, Zumba, Ultimate Frisbee, boot camp, golf, yoga, and many more,” says principal Gloria Lasovich, adding that the goal is “to get students moving and to teach them how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.”

In the winter, students enjoy active outdoor recesses in the snow-covered schoolyard, as well as indoor intramurals during lunch hour. When spring arrives, the school hosts a community Bike Rodeo (on a Saturday) to raise awareness about street safety. Also in the spring, students can spend their lunch break running or walking laps outside as part of the 100 Kilometre Club. The students’ progress is displayed on bulletin boards around the school and celebrated at the year-end assembly.

What makes these active initiatives work at St. Agnes? “We are lucky to have the perfect combination of a great staff, a wonderful group of volunteers, and appreciative students who participate whole-heartedly,” says Gloria. For schools looking to build a more active, healthy atmosphere, she suggests taking it one step at a time: “Start by promoting health and well-being in newsletters, council meetings, assemblies, staff meetings, and school improvement plans. Approach some staff members to help organize a few events a year. Soon, you will grow as a school community where everyone has the same positive attitude about activity and fitness.”

WHAT YOUR SCHOOL CAN DO

Aside from organizing independent events, schools can also choose to partner with a charitable organization to host an active event for a good cause. Here are some examples of worthwhile programs available nationwide:

  • The Terry Fox Run. Students across the country participate in this well-known event every September, to further Terry Fox’s mission to raise funds for cancer research. The Terry Fox Foundation offers access to event materials and teaching resources for various grade levels. It also suggests adding a challenge to the mix – for example, if the student body reaches a specific fundraising total or participation goal, the school principal will sing karaoke, the teachers will wear ridiculous costumes, or some other entertaining stunt will be performed at the next school assembly.
  • Jump Rope for Heart. Remember doing the Peek-A-Boo and other skipping tricks in your elementary school days? The Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Jump Rope for Heart program has been around for over 30 years, and they’ve got it down to a science. Their “Online Resources” page has everything an event organizer could ever need, right down to scripts for the morning announcements. Students can get their hearts pumping with over 4,000 other schools across Canada, in support of ongoing research to prevent heart disease and stroke.
  • Relay for Life. Since this one involves an all-nighter, it is better suited for high school students. Participants walk the track in support of the Canadian Cancer Society and pay an emotional tribute to cancer survivors. It’s a great learning opportunity, as student organizers will receive leadership training and support from a dedicated Relay For Life Youth Specialist Team. In addition to building school spirit, the experience teaches teens to look beyond themselves and be part of something positive.

Whether you’re a school administrator, teacher, or parent, look for opportunities to add active elements to your school community, so students can start off the school year on the right foot – literally.