Moving Toward Better Academics: The Red Hawk Way

On the blacktop and playgrounds during midday recess, Red Hawk Elementary School in Erie, Colo., takes the shape of countless other schools across this country: laughing, red-faced children walking that fine line between having fun and pushing boundaries; forgotten sweaters strewn about on fence posts and tree branches; yesteryear’s worn playground equipment seemingly keeping the whole dance in motion.

Yet this is where the commonalities between Red Hawk and the vast majority of other schools end.

As a 2012-13 Teaching Ambassador Fellow at the Department of Education, I was lucky enough to visit Red Hawk as part of the Department’s back-to-school bus tour across the country.

Red Hawk Elementary

Red Hawk Elementary in Erie, Colo.

Red Hawk principal Cyrus Weinberger was kind enough to put his school on display for me, and in particular the school’s national recognized movement program. Weinberger and Red Hawk physical education teacher Tanya Erands developed and implemented the program that is the school’s lynchpin, and contributed to the school’s recent recognition, including Academic Growth, during the latest round of district reviews.

During the visit, I watched the entire student body—including those with disabilities–engage in their daily dose of “Morning Movement.” The 4th graders collected popsicle sticks as they crisscrossed the soccer field, the 3rd graders jumped rope, and the 2nd graders walked a mile of laps around the building, while the younger grades danced, jumped and twisted to a variety of online dance-alongs in their classrooms.

More than just a catchy subplot and fresh angle, this commitment to movement really seems to be working. If the raw data is not enough, take the word of Jamie Nesbitt, a 4th grade teacher who previously taught in one of the district’s Title I schools. He shared with me that more seat time and fewer breaks ruled his former school, resulting in restless students and more trips to the principal’s office. Principal Wienberger has only dealt with one incident during his fifteen months at Red Hawk, and that surrounded a fight that broke out during a recess football game.

Perhaps the LEED Gold  building is the foundation for this winning culture, or maybe it’s the 1500 square foot student-maintained garden that keeps kids on the up and up. I shouldn’t forget about the Math, Science, Integration of the Arts & Technology Focus this school maintains, or the daring health-food initiatives on which it refuses to compromise (non-food birthday celebrations . . . what?). Together, these many traits represent the well-rounded, 21st century education our children need and too rarely receive.

But in a vast sea of out-of-this world impressive initiatives and programs, I believe just one statistic swims alone in summing up the Red Hawk way: Last year 96% of third, fourth and fifth graders said they look forward, each and every day, to coming to school. Now if that’s not something to marvel at, I truly don’t know what is.

Mike Humphreys is a 2012-2013 Classroom Teaching Ambassador Fellow who teaches physical education in Arlington, Va.

The More They Burn, the Better They Learn

Originally posted at LetsMove.gov. 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: