Creating an Active School from the Top Down

Let’s Move! Active Schools is powered by a national collaborative of leading health, education and private sector organizations that team up to offer schools and districts a comprehensive selection of physical education and physical activity resources, professional development, and funding opportunities. Schools receive guidance to ensure students have opportunities to be physically active and choose resources that work best for them.

Read on to learn how Townville Elementary School in South Carolina has worked with Let’s Move! Active Schools and three of its key programs, Fuel Up to Play 60 and the Presidential Youth Fitness Program and the 100-Mile Club, to make 60 minutes of physical education and physical activity the norm.

Each class at Townville Elementary School in Townville, South Carolina has a mission statement. The mission of Physical Education Teacher Russ Laven’s class is “Moving with purpose for a lifetime.” Laven explained, “I hope that we’re instilling these things in their minds as habits and that they’ll carry through for the rest of their life.”

It was the pursuit of life-long healthy habits that inspired Townville Elementary School to join Let’s Move! Active Schools in 2013, but it was hard work and cooperation that earned the school national recognition only a year later.

Setting goals with the Presidential Youth Fitness Program

The nearly 300 students at Townville Elementary learn how to be healthy by setting goals and working towards them throughout the school year. Laven uses the Presidential Youth Fitness Program to assess and track student progress toward FITNESSGRAM® goals and print reports for parents. “I’ve had a couple parents say things such as ‘I didn’t know my child could do push-ups,’” he said. “The feedback has been really good.”

For the second consecutive year, students are also participating in the 100 Mile Club®, where they run laps during recess or before school throughout the year, earning tokens for each mile they complete. Last year, eight students reached their 100-mile goal. Laven stresses that the program isn’t just about hitting a certain number, though. “We try to make them realize that every little bit helps. The success isn’t really 100 miles – it could be reaching 50 or 25,” he said. “They all set goals and work to achieve them.”

Fuel Up to Play 60 helps students move more

Teachers keep students engaged by taking brain breaks in the classroom or riding fitness bikes, purchased through one of several grants from Fuel Up to Play 60. Fourth, fifth and sixth grade students can ride the bikes when they have trouble concentrating in class, while reading or doing classwork on “fit desks” attached to the bikes.

One morning per week, each grade has open gym time when they can add to their mileage or participate in other types of physical activities. The morning exercise program has been so popular, Laven said, “Teachers ask me if their classes can come more than just one day per week!”

After school, students can participate in a variety of seasonal sports programs, including an archery and jump rope club. Clemson University partnered with the school to create an after-school program called GoalPost, which helps students with homework in addition to providing physical activity opportunities.

Faculty walk the talk

Support from Anderson County District 4 administration has enabled Townville to change its school culture – particularly support from Deputy Superintendent Dr. Joanne Soldano Avery. “Dr. Avery has made a huge difference in what’s happening at all of our schools with physical activity and diet,” said Laven.

Healthy messages flow from the top down. The school’s wellness council includes staff members and parents, in addition to several students. Together, and with support from the district, they make decisions about how to best promote health and physical activity within their school environment.

To demonstrate healthy behaviors to students at school, Townville faculty created their own fitness center. “We created a fitness room out of an extra classroom that has treadmills, elliptical machines and exercise bikes. We call it our wellness room that teachers use during the day or after school,” Laven explained. While teachers can’t earn miles at recess with their students, Laven allows them to track their mileage outside of school and participate in the challenge.

Each fall, students and staff put their running skills to the test in the Townville Turkey Trot. Proceeds from the 5K run go towards programs that promote physical activity and healthy lifestyle choices in all Anderson County District 4 schools.

Coach’s Corner

Townville Elementary goes to great lengths to provide students with a variety of opportunities to be fit and develop life-long healthy habits. Allowing students to ride exercise bikes during class has reduced discipline problems by providing a constructive way for students to burn off excess energy without disrupting instruction.

“It’s not just about keeping kids happy and busy,” Laven explained. “It’s about teaching students skills so that they can find activities they will enjoy and want to continue for the rest of their lives.”

Share your school’s stories by emailing [email protected] or join the movement to bring physical activity back to our nation’s schools! Sign up with Let’s Move! Active Schools and become an Active School today.

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