Active Schools Minnesota

Active Schools Minnesota

Across Minnesota, schools are coming together to make being active a way of life for our kids. Thanks to the Active Schools Minnesota initiative, schools are increasing time that students are physically active.

National guidelines recommend that students get at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day. Students need to be active daily for their optimal health.

Research also shows that when students move more, they learn and behave better in the classroom and miss fewer school days due to illness.

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Active Schools Minnesota is a collaboration between the Minnesota Departments of Health and Education and is supported by the Statewide Health Improvement Partnership (SHIP).

Active School Strategies

Through SHIP, schools across Minnesota are implementing these evidence-based strategies to increase physical activity opportunities:

  • Quality physical education
  • Active classrooms
  • Active recess (check out our new Active Recess training videos!)
  • Physical activity during out-of-school time (such as Safe Routes to School)

Learn more about the strategies.

Pilot Study

school mapBetween 2014 and 2016, SHIP worked with the Minnesota Department of Education to implement and evaluate the Active Schools Minnesota initiative in 14 elementary schools in central and northern Minnesota. An evaluation study was conducted to capture the impact of the Active Schools Minnesota strategy in those schools.

The pilot study schools committed to increasing time in two evidence-based Active Schools Minnesota strategies to increase opportunities for physical activity during and outside the school day.

Learn more about the study and download a copy of the evaluation.

Get case studies from each of the 14 pilot study schools. Click on the links below for details.

students playing kickballContact: Tim Lutz, superintendent
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
To implement this strategy, classroom teachers used Internet sites such as “GoNoodle” and “Just Dance.” Students were especially engaged when there was upbeat music, which created a festive atmosphere in the classroom. Teachers incorporated activity opportunities during class, with 10 minutes in the morning and afternoon. Students had the freedom to stand anywhere around the room they felt comfortable. Staff shared Internet resources and downloadable activities with each other at departmental or school staff meetings.

Students look forward to the activity to fire them up. Students come out of their shell and feel more confident moving and having fun around each other.
Justin Lundin, fifth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
The after school program focused on a thoughtfully planned out activity that increased physical activity options for participating students. Students were engaged in activities that were fun and recreational. Activities included snowshoeing, yoga, dancing, cross country skiing and many others. As a result of the expanded physical activity options, there was a large increase in the number of students participating in the after school program.

Results
Since being engaged in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study, the school wellness policy added several active school strategies that guaranteed increased opportunities in physical activity for students. The additions included mandating at least 30 minutes of daily recess for students K-6, 25 minutes of daily physical education for elementary students and active classroom breaks in both the morning and afternoon.

We got involved as an active school because I have read and heard a lot of research that students who are more active during and after the school day are much more likely to be successful in school. Cognitive abilities improve, attendance improves, students get better grades and behavior improves. I just saw all this and thought why wouldn’t we do this for our students?
Tim Lutz, superintendent

active kids in classroomContact: Janet Mattson, school nurse
Strategy 1: Physical Education
Physical Education time for students increased from 25 minutes each day to 30 minutes. The additional time allowed the students to participate in more instant activities and spend more time in their daily lessons. Students used technology to track their movements and heart rates. Students also participated in fitness assessments and individual improvement plans through FITNESSGRAM.

The additional time of five minutes per day may not seem like a lot, but when you take into account this happened for 180 days, it really made a difference.
Brenda Wegscheid, elementary physical education teacher


Strategy 2: Active Classrooms
Staff received training in active classrooms at a school in-service day. Classroom teachers talked with their students about why they were moving and had students assist in selecting the activities. Favorite activities included “GoNoodle,” “Yoga Dots,” and “The Jam School Program.” Some teachers had students lead activities. Classroom teachers also shared activity ideas with each other.

Strategy 3: Active Recess
Recess time was increased to 25 minutes for all elementary students. Recess supervisors received training on setting up the playground or indoor environment to encourage more physical activity options. The play area was clearly zoned to designate different areas of play to provide movement opportunities for all students. Positive playground expectations were clearly described and posted for the students. Recess supervisors also implemented clear processes for transition times on and off the playground.

Results
Participation in the Active schools Minnesota pilot study resulted in a shift in school culture. Students had increased physical activity opportunities through enhanced physical education and integration of movement into their classrooms. They also experienced a change in the playground environment that provided more choice in physical activity options.

We became an active school because we know the importance of getting our kids moving and grooving. There’s a lot of energy in this school and when there’s lots of energy we want to find ways to use it positively. We want to be intentional about making sure our students have the opportunity to move throughout the school day so they can settle in and focus on academics.
Jill Walter, assistant principal


kids in gymContact: Mark Oscarson, physical Education
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
Teachers provided students the rationale why moving in the classroom is important. Physical activity was implemented at a consistent time, twice each day. Students often helped select activities and served as leaders for the activities. Teachers shared resources with each other and received additional ideas from the physical education teacher.

Children seemed refreshed and energized so they can refocus and attend to their work and lessons.
Stacy Hagen, fifth and sixth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
Morning open gym was available for an hour every school day all year long. The gym was open for all students. Students selected activities that interested them. There were competitive and non-competitive options. Activities were age-appropriate, inclusive of all students, fun and recreational.

Some elementary teachers told me that students who came to morning gym burned off their energy and were more focused in their school work.
Mark Oscarson, elementary physical education teacher


Results
The biggest impact that participation in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study was seen in the increased number of students participating in physical activity before school. It became part of the school norm for students to go to the gym and move rather than sitting in the cafeteria waiting for the school day to begin.
kids skatingContacts: Marvin Poegel and Sharon Pesta, physical education teachers
Strategy 1: Active Recess
Recess time was increased for students in grades four, five and six and scheduled so fewer students were on the playground at a time. Recess supervisors participated in staff development to learn best practices for setting up the playground environment that encouraged more movement. This included implementing a “Walk and Talk” strategy, zoning the play areas to enable more participation and providing opportunities for both structured and unstructured play. Student playground expectations were also posted on the door to the playground to remind students about those expectations.

Increasing physical activity options during recess and taking time to clearly define student behavior expectations made a big difference for our students. Aarin Gapinski, recess supervisor

Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity “Active Mornings” were implemented before school twice a week for 30 minutes. Students were able to select activities they wanted to do. Students of all ages and abilities participated.

Mr. Poegel is so nice to open up the gym in the morning for kids. He makes it super fun and shows us how to play new games and works with different techniques. In the morning we have the option to play Ga-Ga ball, shoot baskets, badminton, and other fun activities. We love it because it gets us active right away in the morning and we get to play with our friends.
Zach (age 9) and Isaac (age 7) Gapinski


Results
As a result of Swanville’s involvement in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study, physical activity opportunities for play at recess and before school increased. Purposeful adjustment of the recess schedule allowed more time for recess. Decreasing the number of students on the playground resulted in less congestion and more play options. By opening up the gym for 30 minutes twice weekly with multiple activity options, students were able to select activities they enjoyed and looked forward to playing with their peers.
kids walkingContact: Cynthia (CJ) Johnson, physical education teacher
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
Teachers received professional development on implementing physical activity into their classrooms. The physical education teacher provided resources to teachers on a regular basis. Some of the classrooms were furnished with equipment such as stability balls or standing desks. Students often selected and led the physical activities. According to Tammy Thornton, a sixth grade teacher, “Students will definitely let me know when it’s time for a physical activity break!”

More smiles. Fewer yawns. More focused.
Andy Nielsen, sixth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
The physical education teacher implemented “Mighty Milers,” a running program for kids of all fitness levels from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade. Over the course of the program, children in Mighty Milers set goals to run and/or walk a certain distance and earned awards for reaching milestones along the way. Students could participate before or after school and track their progress. The physical education teacher also provided after school activity sessions for archery and tennis.

Results
As a result of being part of the Active Schools pilot study, the culture of the school shifted toward a foundation of movement for students both during and outside the school day. The district wellness policy now spells out that all students will have opportunities, support and encouragement to be physically active on a regular basis. The policy states that physical education is an integral component of the overall education of a child in preparation for health and wellness and should not be substituted for other physical activities. The policy also says that classroom teachers will provide short physical activity breaks between lessons or classes, as appropriate.

Since implementing Active Schools Minnesota, teachers have become more aware of the importance of being active during the school day. If a school is considering becoming an active school, my advice would be start small, start with teachers who are buying into it and introduce activities at faculty meetings.
Cyndee Johnson, physical education teacher

kids in gymContact: Lori Wixo, Physical Education Teacher
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
This strategy was implemented through an initial in-service training for classroom teachers to create or increase physical activity opportunities in their classrooms. The physical education teacher provided numerous resources such as the Jam School Program, GoNoodle and an online subscription to SPARK ABC’s (activity break choices). Teachers reported that by having resources readily available it eliminated prep time and made physical activity easier to implement. Teachers scheduled five-10 minute activity breaks three to five times a day.

My students look forward to the movement and stay focused through our next lesson.
Jim Hopkins, fourth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity

The Raider Mileage Club was created for students to track their daily mileage before school. Students walked, jogged or ran, keeping track of their progress through laps or 2,000 pedomter steps. Students were given Fitness finders chains, collecting a foot and number charm each time they reached a new goal. After reaching mileage goals the student chose a prize from the prize box. When the students reached 50 miles, they were given a RMC t-shirt. When students were asked why they participated in RMC, fifth graders Marc Pederson and Satchel McDonald said: “For the fitness, to stay in shape and for the prizes!”

Students were excited to get into the gym and start their laps. They learned intrinsic and extrinsic motivation while setting daily/weekly goals for mileage. They definitely seemed more focused leaving the gym.
Lori Wixo, elementary physical education teacher


Results Participating in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study had a positive impact on the school environment. Physical activity in the classroom became part of the norm. Physical activity opportunities increased both before and after school resulting in more student participation. The addition of FITNESSGRAM assessments enhanced the physical education curriculum, providing students the opportunity to learn about their healthy fitness zones and use their results to set personal goals.
kids in gymContact: Ann Haugen, physical education teacher
Strategy 1: Quality Physical Education
Physical education time increased to 25 minutes, four days a week for grades four, five and six. Physical education teachers received professional development in the implementation of FITNESSGRAM and implementing quality grade-level outcomes to meet state standards. The program emphasized the need for students to be physically active at least 50 percent of class time and was designed to engage all students, regardless of abilities. Students participated in FITNESSGRAM and results were individually reported.

It was really helpful to be able to provide FITNESSGRAM assessment results to the kids. The assessment helped students understand where they needed to be in their healthy fitness zone.
Joe McDonnell, elementary physical education teacher


Strategy 2: Active Classrooms
Classroom teachers received training on the importance of physical activity on educational outcomes and were provided resources to implement in their classrooms. Students were engaged by first learning why movment was important to their health and learning and were involved in activity selections. Classroom teachers shared additional resources and favorite activities during departmental and faculty meetings. Favorite activities were tapped from Internet sites such as GoNoodle and Jammin Minute.

Results
As a result of participation in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study, physical activity became more a norm for the culture of the school. Classroom teachers gained a better understanding of the impact of physical activity on educational performance and became more committed to consistent daily physical activity opportunities throughout the day. By increasing time for physical education, the curriculum was enhanced and more physical activity class time was provided for students.

Participation in this study was successful because it changed the mindset of teachers to incorporate physical activity into the school day, it introduced the physical education to FITNESSGRAM and provided funding for resources and equipment that would have not been available otherwise.
Ann Haugen, Active Schools Minnesota pilot study lead at Moose Lake

Contact: Dan Owens, physical education teacher
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
This strategy was implemented through initial training on active classrooms that included both the research linking the positive impact of physical activity on the brain and hands-on resources that could be quickly accessed. GoNoodle and the North Carolina Energizers were two regularly used resources. Students often had the opportunity to select and lead activities. Students reported they liked the movement opportunities and often commented on how much better they felt afterward.

Students look forward to brain breaks. They can take an independent brain break while still in a chair, and they understand how not to be distractive. As a class they can choose what activity they want to do and they enjoy it.
Susan Johnson, fifth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
An open gym opportunity was created twice a week for 30 minutes during the entire school year. The program was supervised by the physical education teacher. Students selected activities they wanted to do. The activities were age-appropriate and inclusive of all students. Activity options ranged from team games such as basketball or kickball, to small group or individual activities such as jump rope or hacky sack.

Some students participating in our before school open gym seemed to have fewer discipline problems during the school day.
Dan Owens, elementary physical education teacher


Results
Through participation in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study, system changes occurred throughout the school. Integrating physical activity opportunities in the classroom became a common practice forteachers and an expectation of the students. By opening the gym outside of regular school hours, more students participated in the physical activity options. Integrating FITNESSGRAM assessments into the physical education program enhanced the curriculum and increased student knowledge of their personal fitness levels. Students set personal goals based on results.

We were able to implement FITNESSGRAM smoothly. Making sure students had ample practice time beforehand really helped. Having proper equipment for doing sit ups, push ups, and sit and reach made it easier.
Dan Owens, elementary physical education teacher

kids playing archeryContact: Sheri O’Brien, physical education teacher
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
Teachers received professional development on the impact of physical activity on learning and were provided resources that could be used right away in their classrooms. Internet sites such as GoNoodle or Jammin Minute were two popular resources. The physical education teacher provided additional resources to teachers and assistance when requested. Students were often asked to select activities and lead an activity.

Students are more attentive after physical activity. It relieves excess energy and builds classroom community.
Sherri Larson, fifth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Active Recess
Recess supervisors attended training that focused on best practices in setting up the playground environment for maximum movement opportunity for students. The school focused on clearly defined roles and responsibilities for recess supervision, including actively moving around the playground area and engaging with students. Expectations for student behavior on the playground was also an area of focus. Students received clear instructions on expectations and consequences for inappropriate behavior.

The changes we made for recess in explaining positive playground expectations and clear consequences of inappropriate behavior for students reduced behavioral issues and increased play time.
Rebecca Garza, recess playground supervisor


Results
Since being involved in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study, movement opportunities for students increased. Success for implementing the changes was due to providing foundational concepts about the importance of movement and ways to set up the classroom and playground environment for maximum participation, providing teachers resources that were readily available and engaging the physical education teacher as a key leader. The initiation of physical fitness assessment enhanced the physical education curriculum and provided evidenced-based results for students, allowing them to gain a better understanding of personal fitness levels and enabling them to make plans to maintain or increase those levels.
Contact: Evan Amdahl, physical education teacher
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
Classroom teachers were trained in active classroom research and provided resources that could easily be utilized in their rooms. GoNoodle and brain breaks from the North Carolina Energizers book were most popular. Classroom teachers provided students with the rationale of the importance of physical activity during class time and often engaged them to select activities and serve as leaders. Classroom teachers also shared physical activity resources with each other.

Student needs are being met through use of exercise balls and standing up activities. They have more focus for longer periods of time when activity is built in.
Sara Wendt, sixth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
The physical education teacher created two before/after school physical activity opportunities for students. The first was an After School Activity Night offered twice a year in the spring of the year. The second was a program called “Couch to 5K” three days a week in the morning before school. In addition, the physical education teacher initiated a community 5K walk/run to combine outdoor education with physical activity and other content areas. All students in physical education classes participated in the community event.

“Couch to 5K” offered an additional opportunity for the students to be physically active. It was fun for me to watch the students set their goals and then meet them. Some of them continued to run on their own after the program ended.
Melody Nelson-Swanson, physical education teacher


Results
Through involvement in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study, integrating physical activity during and outside the school day became part of the school culture. The school also engaged community members by inviting their participation in the first Annual Couch to 5K, showing their commitment to physical activity with the theme “We’re in it for the long run.”
kids playing outsideContact: Steve Christians, physical education teacher
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
All classroom teachers were provided professional development that was grounded in the link between physical activity and learning. Teachers were also coached on identifying easily accessible resources to get students moving in their classrooms. Teachers reported that GoNoodle and other Internet sites such as Jam School Program were the most popular resources with students. Teachers shared additional resources with others and asked students to select and serve as the lead for the physical activity sessions.

Strategy 2: Active Recess
Students in grades four, five and six received recess for 30 minutes every day. There were clearly defined roles and responsibilities for recess supervisors. For students who simply wanted to talk during recess, a “walk and talk” strategy was implemented where students had the opportunity to walk a path as they talked.

The walk and talk portion of recess really helped in allowing all students a chance to be active and not just play games.
Sandy Wienhold, recess supervisor


Strategy 3: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
Opportunities for after school physical activity were offered throughout the school year. Activities included flag football, volleyball, open gym (before and after school), youth baseball, gymnastics and little league. Activities were fun and recreational and included a variety of competitive and non-competitive options.

Results
Through participation in the Active Schools pilot study, the physical education program was enhanced by the implementation of the standards-based FITNESSGRAM student assessment. By using this tool, students were able to gain knowledge about their personal fitness levels by learning about healthy fitness zones. By using FITNESSGRAM, students could track their fitness levels throughout their school career.

For schools interested in implementing active schools, my advice would be to start with activities that can be implemented easily and work up from there.
Steve Christians, physical education teacher

Contact: Isaiah Hahn, physical education teacher
Strategy 1: Quality Physical Education

Time for physical education class was increased to 25 minutes on a rotating six-day schedule (four of six days for fourth and sixth grades and five of six days for fifth grade). The physical education program uses the state physical education standards and has developed grade-level outcomes for students. The curriculum was expanded with new activities that included physical fitness assessments through FITNESSGRAM. Physical education staff received professional development on the implementation of new curriculum.

The FITNESSGRAM software is great. I love the printed student reports. It also provides great feedback for parents.
Isaiah Hahn, physical education teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
An after school physical activity opportunity was created that ran twice a week all school year. The activities included age-appropriate selections that were inclusive of all students. The activities varied from non-competitive to competitive and offered a variety of options to encourage engagement. Students had the opportunity to select activities.

Results
The biggest impact of participation in the Active schools Minnesota pilot study was seen in the physical education program, with its enhanced curriculum and increased time allotted. Physical education teachers reported an increase in student engagement and motivation that resulted in an increase in physical activity levels in students.

Students were more engaged and excited when we implemented new and different games and equipment. More effort is put forth when students take charge of their own fitness.
Katie Smith, physical education teacher
kids in gymContact: Curt Storbeck, physical education teacher
Strategy 1 Description: Active Classrooms
Teachers were provided physical activity resources that could be implemented in their classrooms. Most teachers had a designated activity time in the morning and in the afternoon. GoNoodle was the most popular resource. Often students were given the opportunity to select and lead the physical activity time.

Students are more alert and they smile. Physical activity seems to relieve some anxiety.
Don Krause, fifth grade teacher


Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
The school implemented a before school walking and hacky sack program and also provided an after school physical activity program that included activities such as outdoor activities club (snowshoeing, canoeing, kayaking, maple syruping), running club, swimming club and team sports. Participating students increased their physical activity time to assist them in reaching 60 minutes of daily physical activity.

Before school walking has definitely helped with positive behavior during morning classes.
CeCe Charlton, before/after school coordinator


Results
Participation in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study resulted in a change in school culture around physical activity. It became regular practice for classroom teachers to integrate movement throughout the day, providing students not only the opportunity for physical activity, but also empowered them in activity selection and leading activities. Increasing the number of physical activity options after school resulted in increased student participation.
Contact: Vern Capelle, superintendent
Strategy 1: Active Classrooms
Classroom teachers provided the rationale to students why moving breaks during their studies throughout the day was important. Some teachers had their classroom environment furnished with equipment such as stability balls. Classroom teachers were also able to share physical activity resources with each other and implement movement times in the morning and the afternoon.

Strategy 2: Before and/or After School Physical Activity
A walking club was offered twice a week for the entire school year for 20 minutes each session. Physical activities were age-appropriate and inclusive of all students. Activity options were fun and recreational and included structured, unstructured and non-competitive options.

The focus on physical activity in our before/after school program provided an opportunity for more exercise for our students as well as confriming the need for a foundation for healthy lifelong movement.
Jonathon Leither, before/after school physical activity coordinator


Results
Through participation in the Active Schools Minnesota pilot study, staff and student commitment to moving more throughout the day could be seen in both the classroom and out-of-school time opportunities. Staff and students grounded the implementation with the knowledge of the importance of physical activity throughout and outside the school day; students also had input on the activities and choices offered.

It’s important for students to know why they are moving. I think the activity helps them focus afterward.
Jim Drill, fifth grade teacher

Ready to get started?

Is your school ready to get started? Learn how to get involved in Active Schools Minnesota by contacting your local public health office or by emailing health.activeliving@state.mn.us.

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Updated Tuesday, October 02, 2018 at 01:46PM