“It all started with the trainings,” explains Joe McCarthy, Physical Education teacher at Meadowview Elementary, Farmington. McCarthy is referring to the Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP), which focuses on improving nutrition, increasing physical activity and reducing tobacco exposure.
When McCarthy attended SHIP training, he was excited to start educating parents on how its ideas could really affect a community and get his students moving every day. Physical activity is important at every stage in life, and for elementary students it’s been proven to lead to better academic performance and exercise throughout life. With that in mind, Jack Olwell, Physical Education teacher at North Trail Elementary and McCarthy created a program called the Century Club, which is designed to create movement among elementary students outside of the classroom. Part of the fun in the program is that students are able to pick the activity that they want to do. If they prefer dancing over running, then dancing they may.
“The program promotes self-empowerment, awareness to one’s self and the ability to choose things that are fun to the student and that have personal meaning,” McCarthy explains.
The Century Club is an incentive based program where students are rewarded by obtaining the most points possible in a week. Each day, a student can earn up to two points based on their physical activity and each class competes to gain 100 points by March 31st. Every student who earns 100 points by March 31st receives prizes donated by generous organizations statewide.
McCarthy must be one smooth talker. After speaking to different companies and organizations, he was able to collect $20,000 and his Century Club program performed so well that out of 500 applications, Meadowview Elementary was one of nine elementary schools nationwide that received a $25,000 Innovation Competition grant from Active School Acceleration Project.
Outside of the Century Club, McCarthy has incorporated other ways to initiate movement. The first is the Running Club. At recess, students who run two laps around their cross country course during recess can write their names on a poster near the main office. Each time they complete two laps around the course, they place a sticker near their name bringing them closer to a prize given out by McCarthy.
The other motivating movement activity is Jammin’ Minutes, where five simple movements are taught to one class. The students within that class then go to teach the other classrooms the five moves. Not only does this give students a break from learning to get the wiggles out, but it has taught important leadership and communication skills as well as responsibility to the young teachers.
Mr. McCarthy’s movement initiation mindset is a shining example of getting students excited to move, which will have lasting effects in their lives long after Meadowview Elementary. With all this physical activity going on within the school, it is no wonder that in 2011 Meadowview Elementary was rated in the top 3% in Minnesota for academic performance.
One big step for reducing obesity, one giant leap for fun movement and exercise!