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Wells Middle School Helps Kids Reach 60 Minutes of Physical Activity a Day One Step at a Time

Wells Middle School at-a-Glance

Location: Riverside, CA
Grades: 6-8
Enrollment: ~1,000 students

Wells Middle School Physical Education Teacher Alanna Kolonics has always believed that active kids learn better: “Creating a positive physical learning experience involves emotion. Emotion gives students a better recall of what they’re learning,” she explained. In 2013, with the support of her principal, David Furguson, she decided to enroll her school in the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program to find more ways to get kids moving before, during and after school.

Morning Warm-up

Two days each week, the doors of Wells Middle School in Riverside, California open earlier than usual for students to participate in the 100 Mile Club.

3 Steps to Get Kids Moving More at School

1. Open the building early and let kids jog or walk before the school day begins.
2. Allow students to go outside for unstructured play during lunch.
3. Give teachers ideas and instruction about how to lead quick classroom movement breaks.

Teachers volunteer to track the students’ laps on a clipboard as they tally towards the 100-mile goal over the course of the school year.

Even some faculty have joined the program, and all participants can count the miles they accumulate in 100 Mile Club-sanctioned events outside of the school walls such as community 5ks and 1-mile fun runs.

No Recess? Get Creative with Lunch and Classroom Time

Secondary school schedules typically don’t allow for recess, but Wells Middle School believed there was value in allotting timeduring the school day for unstructured, active play. Alanna worked with her principal to designate an area of the blacktop where students could use the school’s physical education equipment if they finished lunch early. Now, some students gain an extra 20-30 minutes of soccer, Frisbee or basketball during their lunch period depending on how quickly they make it through the lunch line.

To encourage faculty to prioritize movement in the classroom, too, Alanna used resources from the Program’s website, such as GoNoodle, to demonstrate activity breaks for teachers during staff meetings. She shared links to websites with ideas for movement and even offered to demonstrate the activities in the classroom to increase the teachers’ comfort level.

Alanna printed decks of physical activity cards from the Program website so that staff could always have a steady supply of quick-and-easy movement ideas whenever student attentiveness started to wane.

Standards-based Instruction Maximizes Physical Education Minutes

Wells Middle School’s physical education teachers follow the California State Board of Education standards for physical education. All students receive 400 minutes of physical education every two weeks—and that instruction focuses on improving children’s competencies around the state’s standards. “The standards give purpose to our instruction,” said Alanna. “The students are building upon what they’ve learned in the previous years so the effect is cumulative.”

After two years of setting and working towards goals, Wells Middle School earned the Alliance’s 2015 National Healthy Schools Bronze Award. The Award is the culmination of the hard work of many individuals, including classroom teachers, administrators, students and physical education teachers like Alanna. “Baby steps are really important,” she said. “Communicate the need, the importance, and the passion and everyone else will jump on board!”

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Support for Wells Middle School is generously provided by Kaiser Permanente National Community Benefit Fund at the East Bay Community Foundation.