Building Support for an Active School in Dallas

Let’s Move! Active Schools is powered by a national collaboration 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 Dallas Environmental Science Academy in Texas has worked with Let’s Move! Active Schools and one of its supporting organizations, Fuel Up to Play 60, to make 60 minutes of physical activity the norm.

Louis Collins, physical education teacher at Dallas Environmental Science Academy, has long been a champion of healthy living. His school follows block scheduling, which allows students to have 90 minutes of physical education either two or three times each week. Students can also get moving through a variety of activities during a 10-15 minute recess break after finishing their lunch.

Despite the great strides his school had already made, Collins knew there were opportunities to do more to help his students meet their 60 minutes of physical activity each day. At a staff meeting several years ago, Alliance for a Healthier Generation Program Manager Jeannine Rios introduced him to the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program, a managing partner of Let’s Move! Active Schools that helps schools build healthier school environments nationwide. Collins was eager to get involved, but he knew he needed to build support at his school if his efforts were going to be successful.

“The biggest thing is to get staff on board,” he said. “Whoever is trying to push that health message is going to get frustrated if they try to do it alone. But if you can get a team to share responsibilities, you’ll see a huge impact.” With several staff members offering support, Dallas Environmental Science Academy enrolled in the Alliance’s Healthy Schools Program in 2012 and Let’s Move! Active Schools the following year.

Gaining Student Buy-In

Collins and his team got to work quickly, using Let’s Move! Active Schools as its guide and utilizing its online resources to generate creative ideas to encourage healthy habits for the school’s 400+ students, more than 77 percent of whom are economically disadvantaged.

To build support, Collins knew he also needed to gain buy-in from students. He established a student wellness committee to help spread healthy messages peer-to-peer. Students on the committee promote opportunities for activity in and outside the school day including the Dallas Mayor’s 5K and Moving Mondays. During Moving Mondays, students lead exercises for 10-20 seconds each while music plays through the school’s public address system. The whole school participates.

Setting Goals with Fuel Up to Play 60

Collins uses Fuel Up to Play 60, a Let’s Move! Active Schools supporting organization, that empowers youth to create healthier environments in their schools, to help his students to set goals at the beginning of the year. Students sign agreements to meet those goals, which Collins posts around the classroom to hold students accountable. He’s been impressed with the results: “Some kids go online and set up a student website to log their hours of recreation and movement. Some kids take it upon themselves to do more than we’re doing in physical education and log on and get the family involved.”  

Active Kids Do Better

While Collins can tell the school’s wellness efforts are paying off by student and staff enthusiasm, their measures of success are more than anecdotal. “Our academics have continued to improve. Our classroom teachers provide great instruction, but I know also that there is a relationship between with what we’re doing with physical activity and our academics,” he said.

Students have to first show up to school in order to learn. At Dallas Environmental Science Academy, student attendance has increased across all grades 6-8 from 2012 – 2014 by 3.8 percent!

From 2012 – 2014, more students tested in advanced categories in math and reading. In math, the percentage rose from 29.4 to 30.7 across all 6-8 graders, and in reading, it jumped from 35.1 to 39.7.

Coach’s Corner

Don’t be afraid to let your inner-kid out to play! Students watch teachers for cues about how to behave and Collins has learned that his energy and enthusiasm set the tone for his physical education classes. “I’m like a kid so I’m dancing when the music is playing,” he said. “They have fun and they know that I can get wild and crazy so they see that it’s okay to get wild and crazy, too!”

 Share your school’s stories by emailing [email protected] or join the movement to bring physical activity back to our nation’s schools! 

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