Magazine article District Administration

Pumping Up District's Fitness Plan: Exercise Program Strengthens Student Test Scores

Magazine article District Administration

Pumping Up District's Fitness Plan: Exercise Program Strengthens Student Test Scores

Article excerpt

What started as one suburban Boston parents idea to improve fitness in her elementary school has evolved into a national initiative to get students moving in creative ways that improve academic achievement and foster lifelong healthy habits.

In 2009, a mother in Natick Public Schools rallied parent volunteers to create a before-school fitness class for elementary students to boost academic performance. The program grew with funding from the Reebok Foundation, and is now called Build Our Kids' Success (BOKS). It is used in more than 1,200 schools in 48 states and six countries.

The BOKS classes include running activities, obstacle courses and team games. Wellesley College researchers found that both memory and ELA tests scores improved significantly after one year among Natick students who participated. The students also made greater gains in the 400-meter dash than did non-participants.

Sparking achievement

With the success of BOKS, Superintendent Peter Sanchioni launched a K12 fitness initiative for the district's 5,300 students called Sparking Achievement. The goal is to improve all students' cardiovascular health while helping them find physical activities they can continue to enjoy after graduation, says Robert Anniballi, Natick's director of health and wellness.

"With the old physical education model, we would have a super athlete and a timid, 90-pound student in the same class being asked to play basketball against each other. It didn't make sense," Anniballi says. "We wanted to get students to find fitness avenues they can pursue when they leave school, instead of being in a competitive environment."

The district purchased heart rate monitors for all students in grades 7 through 12. At the middle school level, physical education is now supplemented by a fitness class that focuses on cardiovascular health. Students spend 90 days tracking their gains in resting heart rate and improved cardiovascular fitness. …

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