Teamwork Builds an Active School in North Carolina

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 Idlewild Elementary School in North Carolina has worked with Let’s Move! Active Schools and three of its partners, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, Fuel Up to Play 60 and SPARK, to make 60 minutes of physical education and physical activity the norm. 

Located in the southeastern corner of Charlotte, North Carolina, Idlewild Elementary School is home to more than 900 students from pre-K through fifth grade. Idlewild is a Title 1 School, meaning that more than 72 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged. Dr. Patricia Smith, the schools’ physical education teacher, believes that schools are important places to teach kids healthy habits – especially those in greatest need. “If they don’t get the information they need about being healthy at home, the school can be that liaison to give them what they need,” she said.

Getting started with Let’s Move! Active Schools

To access the resources she needed to help her students develop those healthy habits, Smith enrolled in Let’s Move! Active Schools. In 2014, Smith and her dedicated staff earned Let’s Move! Active Schools National Recognition through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, proving that passion, persistence, and purpose are key to making ideas become reality.

Through this “journey” Smith says she needed clear communication and consistency to succeed. To engage her school community, she recruited a staff representative from each grade level, in addition to parents and administrators, to join the wellness committee. The school representatives acted as liaisons, ensuring that the staff and students in each grade were on board with building a healthier school together.

This strategy proved to be very effective in getting the school staff on the same page. In just a few years, the committee has achieved several significant feats that have positively impacted the school’s students. “They’re making healthier choices and engaging more in physical activity,” said Smith.

Moving more before, during and after school

Students participate in programs before, during and after school to meet their goal of 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Teachers have stepped up to lead a variety of after school sports activities including basketball, tennis, Girls on the Run, soccer, golf, karate, cross country and track and field.

During the track team’s inaugural season, Idlewild student Timothy Smith earned third place in the 200-yard dash at the national championships. Dr. Smith beamed: “He was the only boy from the state of North Carolina at nationals, and he’s from our school. We are so proud!” At the meet, held in Pennsylvania, the student met Olympic gold medalists Rafael Johnson, Carl Lewis and Jackie Joyner Kersee – not bad for a beginner!

SPARK and Fuel Up to Play 60 boost movement at school

In her physical education classes, Smith uses SPARK, a physical education curriculum that also provides training and equipment to schools, to help students set and work towards their fitness goals. She favors SPARK because it involves all children and is evidence-based. “I really love SPARK – from the CDs, to the lesson plans, to the reflections that help to think about what changes you need make to your lessons in the future.”

In 2013, Idlewild was awarded a $4,000 grant from Fuel Up to Play 60, another Let’s Move! Active Schools partner that empowers youth to create healthier environments in their schools. Some of the funds were used to purchase pedometers, which Smith used not only to track students’ steps but also to teach lessons in accountability and goal-setting. Students track their steps before school with the walking team, at recess, or in physical education classes.

When the weather doesn’t cooperate, Smith explained, “They walk in the hallways, they march in place in the classroom, or they walk up and down the steps. They’re still getting those steps in.”

Fitness extends to fundraisers and staff

It’s not just students who are getting their 60 minutes of activity per day. Smith shares fitness tips in a faculty newsletter each Wednesday and says that staff encourage one another to make healthier choices in and out of school. Twice a week, a Zumba instructor teaches classes after school hours for anyone looking to work up a sweat.

Some classrooms are taking health to the next level by forgoing traditional birthday cupcakes for open gym time or active games in the classroom. Fundraisers also have received a healthy make-over. “We held a fun run with the PTA and the wellness committee, and we also held a Kids Night Out event at school on a Friday night so that parents could go out,” said Smith. “We raised $1,800 in two hours!”

Coaches Corner

Smith summed up in a few short words why she works hard to champion fitness at Idlewild: “It’s very important that our school is healthy. Healthier children produce better work – academically, emotionally, socially; we have less absenteeism, increased work productivity. They just perform better when they’re healthier.”

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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