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Teamwork Helps Lake Canyon Students Reach 60 Minutes of Physical Activity a Day

Lake Canyon at-a-Glance

Location: Galt, CA
Grades: Transitional K-6
Enrollment: 550 students

Principal Judi Hayes has been a school administrator in many different types of communities. “There’s always a common thread,” she said. “All parents want opportunities and a bright future for their kids.”

Two years ago, when Judi came to Lake Canyon Elementary in Galt, California, that’s exactly what she vowed to provide to her students by joining the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program.

Make Time for Movement

3 Steps to Get Kids Moving More at School:

1. Lasting change starts from the top; gain buy-in from your administrator.
2. Give students a voice and let them choose from a variety of physical activity options.
3. Ask your PTA to be a partner in promoting health and wellness.

One of Judi’s top priorities was to restructure the school day to boost her students’ minutes of physical education. First, she sought support from teachers by explaining that making time for physical instruction would improve their students’ academic performance, not harm it. “There is a direct correlation between kids having an opportunity to be physically active and their academic achievement,” she said. “When they’re active, they’re more alert, engaged and aware.”

Primary students (grades 1-3) now receive 100 minutes of physical education per week and intermediate students (grades 4-6) receive 135. Lake Canyon’s physical education teacher follows the California State Board of Education standards for physical education and last year also incorporated FITNESSGRAM®, the official assessment of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, to improve teachers’ ability to track their students’ progress against goals.

Through the Healthy Schools Program, Judi’s staff was introduced to GoNoodle classroom physical activity breaks, which have become a favorite among teachers. Last year, many of the school’s second grade students ran a marathon in the classroom throughout the school year as part of a GoNoodle activity.

It’s All about Choice: Options Encourage Participation

Recess is just as important to the school day as reading or math at Lake Canyon. Primary students have recess three times each day—15 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes during lunch, and another 15 minutes in the afternoon, while intermediate students enjoy two 20-minute recess breaks daily. One of the most popular attractions is a 9-foot tall yellow and blue “ball wall” that acts as a backboard for basketballs, handballs or tennis balls.

During lunchtime recess, the physical education teacher also leads an intramural sports program where students provide input about what types of activities they’d like to try. Offering a variety of activities is key: “We’ve found that more opportunities for students to make their own choices leads to higher levels of student participation and engagement,” said Judi.

When the School Day Ends, Physical Activity Does Not

The majority of Lake Canyon students participate in an extended school day that includes an extra hour of extracurricular activities. Students can select from 25 different clubs, many of which teach them about good sportsmanship and teamwork by playing soccer or training for a 5K race. “I see the students taking these fitness opportunities to become leaders among their peers,” Judi added.

Even the Parent Teacher Association is supportive of the school’s healthy changes. The PTA now focuses events on fitness, such as family dance nights, rather than potluck dinners.

Lake Canyon’s teamwork and dedication is paying off: the school has seen their rates of truancy drop and nearly every student is meeting or exceeding their individual academic and engagement goals. As a bonus, the school has earned the Alliance’s National Healthy Schools Bronze Award for the past two years in a row!

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