Physical Activity + Math = A Winning Equation
Clayton Elementary, a small school of only 235 in rural Georgia, embraced the fall Fire Up Your Feet challenge in a big way. PE teacher, Anne Cross, is always looking for new challenges to keep the students engaged. Sometimes she even makes up challenges just to keep them moving. So when she came across the Fire Up Your Feet challenge, she knew Clayton’s students would be ready to roll.
Coach Cross said, “Our school is already very active, but most any physical challenge that I put before our student body is accepted and well-received. Our kids love to be challenged, and they love the success that our small school is having against larger schools. We are an underdog, but we accept that and work even harder. The students tell me that I am crazy for thinking that they can log as many miles as I challenge them to do, but so far they always meet the goals I set for them.”
Coach Cross with Clayton Elementary students.
Walking or bicycling to school isn’t possible for Clayton’s students because of their rural location, which means no sidewalks or paths. This doesn’t slow them down one bit. Coach Cross introduced the Get Yourself Moving program (GYM), a walking/jogging program that takes place before the school day starts. She started GYM last year to do her own research on the effects of before school activity on student performance. She came in early three days a week and offered it to one grade level per day for 20 minutes, grades 3-5. After much begging by the students, she opened it up to 2ndgrade as well. During testing week, she offered it daily to the grade levels that were testing. It was at this point that many of the teachers truly began to get on board. Some were coming to help Coach Cross monitor the program because there were more students participating than she could safely watch on her own. The teachers were able to see firsthand the excitement of the students, and they couldn’t help but notice that their students were awake and ready to start the day as soon as they entered the classroom. This year GYM is offered five days a week to grades 1-5, with nearly 100 students participating each morning – almost half of the school population! Teachers can tell the second students walk in the door which ones participated in GYM that morning – they are sweaty, smiling, awake and ready to learn.
After the teachers saw the results from the morning program, Coach Cross suggested utilizing recess as a time to walk or run laps to add to Clayton’s physical activity totals. Some classes do laps at the beginning of recess before students start to play, while others wait until the end to reenergize them before heading back to the classroom because they go straight to math. Some students want to do it the whole recess time and excitedly report to Coach Cross how many extra laps they do each day. Even kindergartners are participating in this fun, healthy activity.
In addition to these two programs, they used a foot measuring wheel to get an idea of how they move throughout the day. They measured the distance from each homeroom to the cafeteria and back and then multiplied that by how many students are in each class to get a baseline estimate of how much they walk each day. By this one simple exercise – math and physical activity all rolled into one – they learned that just by walking to lunch everyday they can log 25 miles collectively throughout the whole school. Naturally, this led to students wanting to measure how many steps to the music room, art room, gym, and more. Sometimes they even choose to take the long way back to the classroom just to get in more steps.
One of Coach Cross’s favorite stories is how the GYM program helped set the tone for one boy’s day in particular. Each day he showed up at school with a scowl on his face. Then he started to come to the morning jog. And he didn’t just jog, he RAN! This was back when the program was one day a week, and he begged the Coach to let him come early on other days to run. It was amazing to see what a tremendous change took place in his attitude simply by jumpstarting his day with physical activity.
Clayton Elementary isn’t going to stop moving just because the Fire Up Your Feet fall challenge is over. Coach Cross challenged them to get in 60,000 miles before Thanksgiving, thinking that would be tough. As of November 2, students have logged 55,000 miles.