When the call to action came, champions in the District of Columbia Public School (DCPS) system rose to the challenge.
“We always enjoy a good challenge,” said Michael Posey, physical education teacher at Garrison Elementary and district-level Let’s Move! Active Schools champion.
Champions within DCPS enrolled all 111 of its schools in Let’s Move! Active Schools by the beginning of the 2013-2014 school year, making DCPS one of the first districts to achieve 100 percent participation in the national movement.
Driven by the deep-seated belief that schools play a critical role in improving kids’ health, Posey and his DCPS colleagues responded to what they saw as a directive to embrace their full responsibility as educators.
“Especially being that we are in the nation’s capital with the First Lady’s initiative, Let’s Move!, it seems only right that we make sure our students are getting active daily—before, during and after school. Let’s Move! Active Schools presented an opportunity to build on existing programs and “give a name to…what we’re doing on a regular basis,” said Posey.
A Little Creativity Goes a Long Way
In DCPS, becoming more active has been all about innovation and offering students opportunities to move more. District-level champions have prioritized activities that promote lifelong healthy habits, and as a result, DCPS has, according to Posey, been able to “extend and expand some of our lifetime sports such as tennis, fly fishing, and golf.”
At Murch Elementary, creative programming has taken a turn to the medieval times—students are learning archery!
“A teacher sent us a picture of the students practicing archery in class and thanked us for the opportunity because the students were so excited,” Posey explained. “They liken it to the Hunger Games.”
In addition to Posey’s advocacy, creativity, and resourcefulness from physical education teachers like Caroline Hunt at Maury Elementary, the district has made quality physical education a staple within its schools, even with limited resources.
Teacher ingenuity and district-level commitment to enrolling in Let’s Move! Active Schools, including support from Chancellor Kaya Henderson, got the ball rolling despite a few initial challenges.
Parent teacher associations, teachers and administrators have all stepped up to apply for grant funding to make new and improved physical activity programming—including resources from BOKS, SPARK, and community partners—possible during all parts of the school day.
Moving More Means…
As physical activity opportunities increase throughout DCPS, so does student happiness and community engagement. At the elementary level, the uptick in physical activity has been met with great enthusiasm: “Students love their school. They love coming to school; they love being active,” said Posey.
Teachers at McKinley Technology Education Campus, a high school that offers physical activity brain breaks, report that students enjoy the opportunity to have an active start to their day. On the hunt for everything from soccer programs to yoga instructors, school champions have sought out collaborations from community partners to increase the breadth of offerings.
And programs are growing for staff too. Faculty are moving more too, with programs like yoga in the pipeline to enhance professional development for teachers.
His efforts to create “believers” at DCPS has already had an enormous impact on the hearts—and heart rates—of educators and champions across the district. Posey continues to dream big when envisioning the future of DCPS and the movement for Active Schools.
“I would love to see the nation adopt physical education as a core subject,” he said. “That would be amazing to me; that would finally give physical education the level of importance that it deserves across the country.”
Words to Move By
- Look at different models for scheduling physical activity into the extended school day. Consider before or after school programming.
- Find an activity that the community and students can buy into and seek out community partners to help activate.
- Offer small physical activity trainings to teachers and principals to demonstrate that physical activity does not take away from academics—but supports it.
- Give teachers ideas to teach in an active way. While we, as physical educators, may say that it’s simple to get students up and moving, it’s a different game for general education teachers who need to meet their own objectives. They need our ideas!