Making Moves in Memphis

From hallway flash mobs—Beyoncé is the artist of choice—to a walking school bus, physical activity is the genesis of a culture shift at Charjean Elementary in Memphis, Tennessee. It all started when physical education teacher Barry Bridger learned about Let’s Move! Active Schools.

First Things First: Building Support

The key to kicking off Charjean’s Let’s Move! Active Schools effort was building a support from fellow staff and teachers. The Healthy School Team served as the forum where teachers shared their physical activity training skills, even when they were not directly classroom-related, and engaged in dialogue around becoming a more active school.

“Forming the Healthy School Team created the awareness we needed,” Coach Bridger explained. “It got everybody to see that we needed to get the kids moving. Being active is going to help [the students] increase their test scores and more.”

Bridger and his colleagues sought to incorporate high quality physical activity programming into all aspects of the school day. One of his proudest accomplishments is the transformation of an after-care program, which was once essentially extra recess time. The program has grown to include music—one of the teachers is giving drumming lessons—as well as physical education activities, a dance team class and a karate class. Additionally, students in this free program receive a healthy dinner.

Changing Lives through Movement

One student’s progress stands out to Bridger. When the student began at Charjean, “she was very inactive and didn’t want to do anything,” he said.

Since she joined the dance team, though, her attitude and outlook have changed.

“She has lost a significant amount of weight, and she tries her hardest to do what she can. She basically told us that she wanted to make a change in her life… and she’s really been a success story here.”

Her active lifestyle has inspired change in her family as well.

In addition to using physical activity as a tool to empower students, Bridger and others intertwine physical activity with community service and character building, laying the foundation for a lifelong association between healthy bodies, healthy minds, and good citizenry. Bridger runs a monthly boys’ club he calls the “Men of Charjean.” Students spend one Saturday a month completing a community service project, such as collecting trash on the school grounds and in the surrounding neighborhood. Then, they share a healthy lunch and end their day with races, flag football, and other physical activities.

And, as students increase their fitness, their healthy attitudes have become infectious, catching on within their families. Charjean’s annual Family Physical Education night – an opportunity for students to bring their families for a night of fun, physical activity, and community building – has been a smash hit and continues to grow. 

Words to Move By

  •  Bridger said, “Just get your feet wet! Look at what’s out there that fits your particular program, and just give it a shot. You never know until you try.” 

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Take the Initiative and Make a Difference

Becoming an Active Schools Champion is a way to make a difference in the health and education of the next generation. It’s how we bring health equity to schools. It’s how we start a movement.