June 27, 2024

The Strategic Investment Transforming St. Louis Public Schools

Learn more about The Walking Classroom’s positive impact on student wellness.

The St. Louis Public School District (SLPS) has been on a mission. Their goal? To nurture students’ mental and physical well-being while also supporting academic achievement. How are they achieving their goal? By using The Walking Classroom, Healthier Generation’s educational podcast program that combines core curriculum with physical activity and health literacy. 

Students show materials from The Walking Classroom.

In 2015, SLPS began working with Healthier Generation to implement evidence-based programs and policies that center whole child health equity. Since then, 52 America’s Healthiest Schools awards have been presented to schools across the district. 

Strategic investment with federal funding

Like other districts nationwide, SLPS leaders evaluated countless avenues to invest federal pandemic recovery funds to help students recover academically and emotionally from the disruptions of COVID. 

Students walk through the halls while using The Walking Classroom.

Among these funding sources is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER), which carries specific criteria requiring programs to:

  • Address the academic impact of learning loss.   
  • Support social and emotional needs.
  • Increase student engagement, attendance, and motivation to learn.
  • Add educational technology that boosts interactions between students and instructors.

Looking for scalable solutions that are proven to work with their student population, district leadership took note of The Walking Classroom, which aligns with ESSER by addressing each criterion. Together, Healthier Generation and St. Louis Public Schools made a historic, district-wide investment in The Walking Classroom. 

Proof of concept at Patrick Henry Elementary

Patrick Henry Elementary, a vibrant, Title 1 school serving approximately 300 students in a historically marginalized area of the city, began using The Walking Classroom in 2022. Staff and students were so blown away by the program’s impact that district leadership decided to implement the program across all schools the following year. 

“My students loved their experience with The Walking Classroom because it got them moving and gave them another reason to be outside during the school day! My staff loved the student engagement in academic material while they were moving – perfect combo for kiddos,” said Dr. Rogers, the principal at Patrick Henry at the time.

The program combines physical activity with standards-aligned lessons. Research shows that this combination leads to students learning more, retaining information longer, and performing better on cognitive tests.

Leanne White, director for Healthy Schools Initiatives, believes a holistic approach to education is the key to unlocking students' full potential. That’s why she worked with Healthier Generation to bring a fun and unique tool to SLPS.

At SLPS, movement is not just a break from learning; it's an integral part of it. Leanne’s work of increasing students’ movement throughout the day started with “Academics In Movement” zones, also known as AIM zones, throughout the schools that she serves. When she learned about The Walking Classroom, she knew it would work best as a district-wide initiative. 

Scaling impact 

By leveraging ESSER funding, St. Louis Public Schools was able to purchase 2,900 WalkKit audio devices that are impacting 14,000 students.

A student at Patrick Henry Elementary listens to The Walking Classroom on a walk inside during a winter school day.

Navigating the complexities of federal funding guidelines is no small feat, but with the ongoing support of Healthier Generation staff and the strong partnership with district leadership, the process was carried out with ease and collaboration. 

Additionally, The Walking Classroom includes a robust set of online resources, training, staff support, and a comprehensive discussion guide for each episode to make it easy to implement. SLPS continues to partner with Healthier Generation and The Walking Classroom every step of the way.

A group of students using The Walking Classroom.

Positive behavior outcomes

Because it’s designed to fit seamlessly into a class’s daily schedule, some schools use the program daily while others use it once a week. Each time, students look forward to the experience. 

But it isn’t only about academics. The Walking Classroom nurtures well-being for students and staff who participate. 

Aaron Stride, wellness champion at Adams Elementary, witnessed the transformation firsthand. "[Behavior] referrals have been declining," he said, "Kids are acting better when they are getting more activity in the classroom."

ESSER Spending Deadline is September 30

Ready to transform your district's approach to education? Learn more about purchasing and implementing The Walking Classroom today!

Haley Holcomb

Manager, Digital Marketing | Alliance for a Healthier Generation