Being physically active on a daily basis is crucial to a person’s health and wellness and Nanaimo educators are doing their part to instil this habit in students.
Since 2008, all students in the public education system are required to participate in daily physical activities.
At the elementary level, schools offer 30 minutes of endurance, strength and/or flexibility activities each day and for Grades 10-12, students must document and report a minimum of 150 minutes of physical activity per week. Schools can choose between 30 minutes daily or 150 minutes weekly for students in Grades 8 and 9.
And teachers say the physical activity is paying off with more attentive learners.
Jacquie Poulin, principal at Forest Park Elementary School and an Action Schools B.C. regional trainer who looks after several healthy schools initiatives for the district, said elementary school educators do a wide range of things, both inside the classroom and outside, to meet the physical activity requirements, from running and jumping jacks to stretching, chair aerobics and juggling.
Sometimes the students break two or three times a day, or teachers can choose to do the 30 minutes all at once, and sometimes the whole school does a physical activity together, she said.
“Whenever we provide a physical break for students, it has a positive impact on their ability to focus and learn,” said Poulin.
She finds the smaller breaks are often better for maintaining focus, but recommends teachers do whatever works best for them.
Fairview Elementary School principal Gregg Halfyard said many students at his school start the morning off with a run around the neighbourhood and he also takes students to the gym on Fridays while teachers meet to discuss learning strategies.
“The kids look forward to their Friday fitness,” he said. “It makes the kids excited to move.”
Halfyard said the daily physical activity requirement makes schools aware of the importance of getting students moving and it helps regulate the hyperactive kids and raises the energy levels of lethargic students.
“It provides that balance for them,” he said. “I’ve really noticed the behaviours are better, especially in the morning.”
Educators were concerned at first about how they were going to fit the 30 minutes into an already packed school day, but when something is important, you just make time, said Halfyard.
“The movement isn’t there in society in general,” he said. “Kids are protected more. A lot of kids don’t walk to school, they are driven. [Teachers] understand that role modelling is important.”
Woodlands Secondary School principal Dave Stupich said at the secondary level, it is up to students to make time in their week for physical activity and keep a log of it that is produced during their graduation transition interview at the end of Grade 12, along with a plan on what they will do to continue being physically active after high school.
But he’s not sure the requirement heightens student awareness about the importance of exercise because in the modern technological world, many students spend more time on the computer than outside being physically active – he talked with one student recently who spent 18 hours straight playing games on the computer on a Saturday.
Chad Lintott, Cedar Secondary School principal, said a number of teachers at his school will take students out in the middle of class for a few minutes of activity to get the blood flow going again and to improve concentration levels and staff are working on having more of a school-wide program.