The More They Burn, the Better They Learn

Originally posted at The physical activity facts for adolescent and school health were originally published on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Physical activity is essential to a healthy lifestyle, and it can be especially important in helping kids do better in school. U.S. Health and Human Services studies show that regular physical activity for kids and teens improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, and increases self-esteem. Parents, teachers and community leaders can all play a supportive role, and help encourage a healthy lifestyle by promoting physical activity into everyday routines.

Photo credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Photo credit: Center for Disease Control and Prevention

For kids and teens (ages 6 to 17 years), here’s the goal:

    • Participate in at least 60 minutes of physical activity daily. Whether it’s playing outside at recess, joining intramural clubs, or interscholastic sports, kids need to be active. Show them that physical activity is fun!

Here’s why it’s important:

    • Strong bones and muscles: Helps build and maintain healthy bones and muscles.
    • Reduces the risk of obesity: Helps reduce the risk of developing obesity and chronic diseases, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and colon cancer.
    • Makes kids more confident: Reduces feelings of depression and anxiety and promotes psychological well-being.
    • Improves academic performance: May help improve students’ academic performance, including, academic achievement and grades, and concentration and attentiveness in the classroom.

Here are some important resources to learn more:

Connecting with Colorado Communities: Bus Tour Day Four

Students at Lowry Elementary in Denver waved goodbye to the "Education Drives America" bus. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Students at Lowry Elementary in Denver waved goodbye to the "Education Drives America" bus. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Denver: Getting fit and staying healthy

It may have been a once-in-lifetime occurrence: two cabinet secretaries, one governor, two U.S. senators and dozens of students all line-dancing. Historic or not, the importance of the Let’s Move! back-to-school bus tour event at Lowry Elementary in Denver, was clear: Children who are healthy and active are better prepared to learn.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan joined Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Lt. Governor Joseph Garcia, Senators Mark Udall and Michael Bennet and Colorado Commissioner of Education Robert Hammond.

Lowry is part of the Denver Public Schools’ Garden to Cafeteria program, which allows students to grow fruits and vegetables at school and then provide some of their harvest to the school cafeteria for school lunches. The visiting dignitaries ate lunch with students in the cafeteria, toured the schools’ gardens and then worked up a sweat by shooting hoops with students and doing the line dance known as the “Cupid Shuffle.”

Secretary Duncan talks with 1st graders at Limon

Secretary Duncan talks with 1st graders at Limon Public School. Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

Limon: Celebrating Constitution Day

The back-to-school bus’s next stop, Limon, Colo.—population around 1,800—doesn’t get visited by cabinet secretaries often. And that’s a shame, because the eastern Colorado community’s dedication to its school shouldn’t go unnoticed. After a spirited welcome by the Limon Public School band, Secretary Duncan and staff took part in a Constitution Day assembly. (Constitution Day, Sept. 17, is being commemorated in schools all this week. Here are some teaching and learning resources about the Constitution.)

Lt. Governor Garcia, a former college president, traveled on the bus from Denver and explained the importance of understanding our rights under the Constitution. “We need you to become civically engaged,” he told the students.

Limon student body president Toby Kropp introduced Arne and noted that Limon is special because “in the classroom we have demonstrated great excellence.” Kropp boasted Limon’s impressive record in athletics, as well, and challenged the Secretary to a one-on-one basketball game with any member of the Limon basketball team.

During his remarks, Arne said that Constitution Day is a time to reflect about our basic rights as Americans, rights that in some countries “simply don’t exist.”

We were impressed by the community’s support for Limon Public School, which spans kindergarten through 12th grade. Arne praised the community’s dedication by noting that “when an entire community rallies around its school, nothing but good can happen.”

Watch the video highlights from day four:

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

On Tuesday, the Education Drives America bus heads to Topeka and Emporia, Kan., and Kansas City, Mo. Follow the tour on Twitter with the hashtag #edtour12.

Cameron Brenchley is director of digital engagement and is blogging and tweeting his way from coast to coast during ED’s annual back-to-school bus tour.

First Lady Michelle Obama Hosts First-Ever Kids’ State Dinner

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cross-posted from the White House Blog.

Yesterday, First Lady Michelle Obama hosted the first-ever Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House, welcoming 54 budding chefs to a formal luncheon in the East Room. The guests, all between the ages of 8 and 12, represent all U.S. states, three territories and the District of Columbia.

Each of the guests, along with their parents, submitted a healthy recipe as part of the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge, which invited families to create an original lunchtime recipe that is healthy, affordable and delicious, and follows the nutritional guidelines of MyPlate.

“Believe it or not, more than 1,200 kids submitted recipes for this challenge — 1,200.  It’s a big competition,” the First Lady said.  A panel of judges from the organizations that teamed up with Mrs. Obama on this initiative — Epicurious, the Department of Education and the Department of Agriculture—tasted each of the recipes that made it to the final round of the competition and picked their favorites from each state, as Mrs. Obama explained.

And they spent hours trying to decide which ones were the healthiest and the tastiest and the most fun to cook and eat.  And it wasn’t easy to choose one winner from every single state.  You were the winner in your state — the whole state.  You guys won!  Cool!

But you’re here because your recipes truly stood out, right?  And that’s really saying something.  You came up with dishes that were packed with nutritious, delicious ingredients; dishes that are good for you, but more importantly, they taste good, too.  See?  It can happen — healthy and tasty at the same time.

The junior chefs and their parents enjoyed several of the judges’ selections at lunch, including a Quinoa, Black Bean, and Corn Salad created by 11-year-old Haile Thomas of Arizona, Yummy Cabbage Sloppy Joes, created by 12-year-old Rori Coyne of Kansas.  There was even dessert: a Strawberryana Smoothie, created by 11-year-old Stefani Shimomura-Sakamoto who came all the way from Hawaii.

Not one to be left out of all the fun, President Obama stopped by to surprise the guests, and told all the young people how proud he was of their hard work.

Look, let’s face it, I don’t cook that often these days. But I remember cooking and it’s not always easy to make something that people like to eat. Then for you guys to actually come up with recipes that are healthy and tasty, and to do it in a way that helps to contribute to spreading the word about healthy eating among your peers — that’s a really big deal.

So we’re very proud of you.  We’re very impressed with everything that you’ve done.

Click here to watch a video of the President’s remarks.

Behind the Scenes: Getting Ready for the Kids’ State Dinner

Cross-posted from the Let’s Move! blog.

We’re all pretty excited to greet 54 amazing young chefs at the White House on Monday, August 20, when First Lady Michelle Obama will host the first-ever Kids’ State Dinner. Joining us will be the talented young people (and their parents) whose recipes submitted for the Healthy Lunchtime Challenge most impressed the judges, and best met all the criteria: A healthy, original and affordable lunch that contains the five food groups (fruits, veggies, protein, low-fat dairy, and whole grains). Kids could integrate everything into one recipe, or incorporate some of those food groups into one dish and represent the others as suggested sides, like a whole-wheat wrap with chicken salad, lettuce and shredded carrots, served with skim milk and some strawberries.

Before we could narrow down the more than 1,100 entries to the finalists, however, we needed to test the recipes and make sure they also met the final criteria: Is it tasty? Take a look at the massive challenge our judges faced — how to choose just one per state?

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Join us at Let’s Move on Monday at 10 am EST as we live-stream the big day, from the arrival ceremony in the White House through the First Lady’s remarks to the winners and even the special entertainment. a performance by Big Time Rush.

Wrapping Up the Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer Series

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose,” read former NFL player Brian Mitchell during the final installment of ED’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series on Monday. Mitchell read Dr. Seuss’s popular book Oh, The Places You’ll Go!, which encourages children to reach for their dreams. It was the perfect lead-in for the Let’s Move! portion of the event where children from the local area participated in fitness activities and games on the Department of Education’s plaza.

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and Cecilia Muñoz, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, joined Mitchell for the final Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series. Three other Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events were held on July 11, July 18, and July 25. Each event supported First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Initiative, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging summer reading and adult participation.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cydney Adams is a student at the University of Georgia and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Team Squash and Team Broccoli Get Going at ‘Let’s Read! Let’s Move!’

Can you imagine young children debating over which fruit or vegetable is their favorite? At the third installment of ED’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series, that is exactly what happened. As the students arrived, they were put into groups named after fruits and vegetables, ranging from Team Strawberry to Team Squash.  “I love broccoli,” said Alyssa, a rising 3rd grader from Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Youth Center, when she was assigned to Team Broccoli for the day. “Carrots are my favorite,” said her friend Jaden. Luckily, they found common ground with their mutual dislike for lima beans.

A group of more than 150 local students joined Secretary Arne Duncan, CEO of the Corporation for National and Community Services Wendy Spencer, DC Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson, and U.S. Representatives Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) and Danny Davis (D-IL) for reading and physical activities at the Department of Education.

The students listened closely as the guests read popular children’s books such as Knuffle Bunny by Mo Willems, I Believe In You by Marianne Richmond, and Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site by Sherri Duskey Rinker and Tom Lichtenheld. They quizzed Henderson, Davis, and Spencer on everything from their favorite books to their favorite teachers. “When we read, we become friends with people who write books because they share their experiences with us,” Henderson told the children.

Kofi Dennis, a Ghana native, a teacher, artist and musician from the Wolf Trap Institute, entertained the children before the readings. and led them outside to the beat of his drum to begin the Let’s Move! portion of the event.

At the end of the day, each child left with a new book and book bag provided by Target. Other Let’s Read! Let’s Move! events were held on July 11th and July 18th, and the last one is scheduled for July 30th. Each event supports First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging summer reading and adult participation.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Cydney Adams is a student at the University of Georgia and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Moving and Reading with Stars at Let’s Read! Let’s Move!

Secretary Duncan, LeVar Burton and Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler reading to students.

Secretary Duncan, LeVar Burton and Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler read to students for Let's Read! Let's Move! Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

After all the excitement of yesterday’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event, six-year-old Jorge exclaimed “I got to play basketball!” when quizzed about his favorite portion of the day’s activities. Yesterday’s event was the second in ED’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! summer series, and many children like Jorge were eager to share their favorite parts of the event.

Jasmine and Analise, 9-year-old cousins from Thomas Stone Elementary, described how excited they were to read their brand new editions of Pippi Longstocking. A group of boys from Horizon’s Greater Washington excitedly shouted out that they learned how to grow stronger, to drink water, to read books, and to exercise.

Over 150 students from the DC area participated in the activities led by Secretary Arne Duncan, two-time Pro Bowl linebacker LaVar Arrington, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler, and Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton. The children danced and played Simon Says, sang along with Miss America on “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” and laughed as Burton read the poem “Peanut Butter Sandwich” by Shel Silverstein. Burton surprised the students when he claimed that he usually reads four different books at once. “I love science fiction,” he told them.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

“Through encouragement at school, from my family, my mom and dad, that’s how my love for reading began,” said Kaeppeler, who read Ladybug Girl and Bingo by David Soman and Jacky Davis, before heading outside to play basketball and pass out fruit and water to the children. The students were also able to take pictures with Arrington, who was happy to have the chance to play basketball with the kids. “Stuff like this, it’s just awesome,” he remarked between photos.

Before leaving, students visited the autograph table where they were thrilled to not only get a new book but also have it signed by Arrington and Kaeppeler. “My first favorite part was getting the new book bag, and my second favorite part was reading and getting the autograph,” said Thin Wut Yi, age 7.

The students weren’t the only ones pleased with all of the activities. “This was wonderful, even with the heat,” said Thomas Stone Elementary School principal Helda Morad. “We’re very thankful.”

Each child left with a new book bag and books provided by Target, snacks, an autographed book, and a smile.

The first Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event was held on July 11th, and two more are scheduled for July 25th and July 30th. The four events support First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging summer reading and adults reading to children.

Cydney Adams is a student at the University of Georgia and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

Kicking Off ED’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Summer Series

A student races a shopping cart during the Let's Move portion of Let's Read! Let's Move!

Students raced to fill their carts with plastic fruit and vegetables during the Let's Move! portion of ED's first Let's Read! Let's Move! summer series. Official Department of Education photo by Leslie Williams.

“Reading is a way to travel in your mind,” said Cornell McClellan, the First Family’s Nutrition and Fitness Trainer, to over 130 students from DC area schools, camps, and youth programs yesterday at the first of ED’s four part Let’s Read! Let’s Move! series.

McClellan joined Secretary Arne Duncan and Sam Kass, assistant chef and senior policy advisor for Healthy Food Initiatives at the White House, to read and talk to more than 100 local children about the importance of a healthy lifestyle and learning over the summer. Students Jaden McDowell and Kylie Peterson, from DC’s United Planning Organization, had the honor of introducing the secretary and his guests to kick off the activities.

Kass read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle and described the balanced meals he cooks for the First Family, while McClellan chose Jonathan London’s Froggy Learns to Swim. “It’s important to just move because almost any activity that you enjoy can be used as a fun exercise,” said McClellan before starting the Let’s Move! portion of the event.

Secretary Duncan, Kass, and McClellan, led the students outside for games and fitness activities. “If you exercise more, I actually think you do better in school,” Duncan said.

The children participated in games and fitness activities directed by ED’s partner, the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington Physical, Healthy, Drive (PHD) program. Kass and McClellan joined the students in a shopping cart nutrition relay while the secretary shot some hoops with children. Each child also received a book bag and a book of their choice while they snacked on fresh fruit, granola bars, and water.

In addition to Sam Kass and Cornell McClellan, Susan Hildreth, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services, also joined Secretary Duncan for today’s event. Today’s Let’s Read! Let’s Move! event was the first of four events to be held at ED this summer to support First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign, which promotes healthy eating and an active lifestyle, while also encouraging summer reading and adults reading to children.

Click here for an alternate version of the video with an accessible player.

Additional Let’s Read! Let’s Move! Events are scheduled for July 18th, July 25th, and July 30th.

Cydney Adams is a student at the University of Georgia and an intern in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach.

National Healthy Lunch Finals Held at ED

Secretary Duncan greets student chefs

Secretary Duncan greets participants at the Cooking Up Change event at the Department of Education. Official Department of Education photo by Joshua Hoover.

While you may not consider West African succotash, home-style tortilla apple pie or lemon pepper chicken with brown rice standard fare for a school cafeteria, a group of culinary chef students hope to re-write cafeteria menus to prove that school lunches can be both delicious and nutritious.

The students who gathered at the U.S. Department of Education on May 21 are the finalists in a national healthy lunch competition called Cooking Up Change, and sponsored by the Healthy Schools Campaign, a non-profit organization based in Chicago.

In the final round of the competition, students were allowed two and a half hours to create their recipes. Each team used ingredients commonly found in school food service in a recipe that was limited to six steps.

Group photo with Secretary DuncanSecretary of Education Arne Duncan greeted the high school culinary whiz students before the cook-off began, and congratulated the participants for making it to the finals.

The secretary’s wife, Karen, and Christie Vilsack, wife of Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, serve as Cooking Up Change Honorary National co-chairs and Karen served as a  judge for the event. The panel of judges also included Chief of Staff to the Secretary Joanne Weiss and Deputy Chief of Staff Eric Waldo.

For Alex Hernandez of Santa Ana, California, participating in the competition was life changing.

“I have changed my own cooking habits at home. I tend not to eat fattening foods or drink a lot of soda.” Hernandez said.  “I’ve found myself encouraging my family members, friends and teammates to eat healthy and live a better lifestyle.”

Students from Santa Ana’s Valley High, won the competition with a lemon and spinach chicken dish accompanied by a Tuscan bean salad and cinnamon poached pears.

Click here for more information on Healthy Schools from Let’s Move!

DeRell Bonner works in ED’s Office of Communications and Outreach

A “State Dinner” Just For Kids

Cross-posted from the Let’s Move! Blog

Calling all kid chefs: The Healthy Lunchtime Challenge invites parents of kids ages 8-12 to submit an original recipe for a lunch that is nutritious and delicious. All entrants have the chance to win a trip to Washington D.C. and the opportunity to be invited to attend a Kids’ “State Dinner” at the White House in August, where a selection of the winning healthy recipes will be served.

Let's Move LogoLet’s Move! is teaming up with Epicurious, the Department of Education and USDA to find great lunch ideas that are healthy, affordable, and — of course — tasty.

“We all want to ensure that our kids are eating nutritious, delicious food at every meal, and as a mom I know that parents are always looking for new ideas to make that happen,” said First Lady Michelle Obama. “With parents and kids all across the country getting creative in the kitchen, I know we’ll find healthy meals that every family will enjoy.  And I can’t wait to try the kids’ creations myself.”

The rules are simple: All entrants are encouraged to reference the MyPlate nutritional guidelines to ensure recipes meet the primary criterion of being healthier. Entries should represent each of the food groups, either in one dish or as parts of a lunch meal, including fruit, veggies, whole grains, protein and low-fat dairy foods.

Recipes can be submitted May 21 through June 17, either online at or via mailWinners will be notified on July 16. The White House Kids “State Dinner” is currently scheduled to take place in August 2012.

Hike It! Bike It! I Like It! Walk to School 2011

Walk to School LogoIt’s a special day when communities and schools, parents, kids, and teachers make that extra effort to find an alternate safe way to get to school other than riding on a bus or in a car. Meg McFarland, Walking School Bus Committee Chair, at Briarcliff Elementary in the North Kansas City Missouri School District, organized and created a “human school bus” to help celebrate International Walk to School Day on October 5, 2011. Briarcliff students, staff, parents, the North Kansas City High School Hornet Marching Band, Varsity Cheerleaders and Henry the Hornet along with invited guests and the surrounding community met at a designated area and walked, wheeled and rolled together to recognize the healthy benefits of exercise.

Group PhotoMore than 250,000 children across the United States and nearly three million around the world participated in the annual event.

“Walking and bicycling to school enhances the health of kids, improves air quality and the environment, cuts down on traffic congestion and fuel costs, and is fun,” remarked McFarland.  She explained that every Friday in fall and spring more than 30 students participate in the Walking School Bus—a fixed-route walking schedule that allows many adults to supervise kids on their walk to school. “The families, the community, and the environment all benefit,” she said. This initiative also supports the President’s Challenge and First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign by helping to solve the problem of obesity within a generation, as well as ED’s new Green Ribbon Schools competition.

Through the 2005 passage of the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act, Congress authorized $612 million toward developing the National Safe Routes to School Program, and money is distributed to states to fund education, planning and implementation of Safe Routes to School plans and programs.

Creating a special day for our children to walk or bike to school helps communities figure out ways to overcome their reliance on cars and buses. Briarcliff Elementary and thousands of schools across the country are encouraging healthy lifestyles by putting regular physical activity back into daily routines and promoting healthy eating habits — habits that have proven to produce happier students and higher grades.

Jeanne Ackerson

Jeanne works in ED’s Kansas City, Mo., regional office.

Cleveland Middle School Helps Put ED Tour in Motion

Michael Yudin with Solon students, retired NFL player Lomas Brown, Ohio dairy farmer Davis Denman and Chomps, the Cleveland Browns' mascot.

Acting Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Michael Yudin (second from right) with Solon students, retired NFL player Lomas Brown, Ohio dairy farmer Davis Denman and Chomps, the Cleveland Browns' mascot.

SOLON, Ohio—For a back-to-school sprint through the Great Lakes region, it just seemed to make sense to warm up with a little physical activity. So that’s what Michael Yudin, the Department’s acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, did Tuesday morning at Solon Middle School, a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School outside of Cleveland. Secretary Duncan will visit Cleveland on Wednesday afternoon.

Yudin joined Solon City School District Superintendent Joseph Regano, Principal Eugenia Green and representatives from the dairy industry and the National Football League’s Fuel Up to Play 60 program for an assembly to motivate Solon Middle’s 400 8th graders to make smart food choices and be physically active. Lomas Brown, a retired NFL player who spent the 1999 season with the Cleveland Browns, was also on hand to encourage the students, as was Chomps, the Browns’ canine mascot.

Solon Middle School Principal Eugenia Green

Solon Middle School Principal Eugenia Green leads a 2010 National Blue Ribbon School that is now participating in the Fuel Up to Play 60 program.

“We know that healthy students are better students,” Yudin said, congratulating Solon Middle on its Blue Ribbon award and its commitment to student health. Through quality school nutrition and the integration of physical activity into the day, schools are one of the key pillars of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! initiative to combat child obesity.

After the assembly in the school’s gym and a toast to the new school year—with milk, of course—Yudin, Brown and Chomps joined the students on the school’s athletic field for a football, Frisbee, running and walking break.

Solon Middle School students

Following an assembly, students took a mid-morning activity break on the school's football field.

Launched by the National Dairy Council and the NFL in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Fuel Up to Play 60 empowers youth to take action to improve nutrition and physical activity at their school and for their own health.

“Just as the NFL uses their playbook…we can use Fuel Up to Play 60 playbooks to choose the activities that are best for each of us,” said Solon 8th grader Jeff Lidawer, one of several student-athletes who spoke at the assembly.

To learn more about the First Lady’s Let’s Move initiative, including five steps that schools can take, visit

Office of Communications & Outreach