15-minute periods of school-wide moderate-to-vigorous physical activity each morning
Benefits cognitive functioning as well as physical health. Maximizing physical activity levels (and harmony) in the schoolyard is a focal point for many schools; between recess and lunch hour, the schoolyard is the place where over half of the active minutes at school will happen for most students. See Ma Cour, Un Monde de Plaisir , a comprehensive multi-step guide for analyzing and organizing school yards (English electronic version here).
The Essential Role of Recess in Children’s School Success and Health. Ensuring that students receive a minimum of 120 minutes of Physical Education and Health per week in an active setting and taught by a specialist is essential, as is ensuring that the Physical Education and Health program at the school is well supported (in terms of scheduling, funding, support for extra-curricular initiatives, not having a culture where students miss PE to make up work in other classes, etc.).
Trottibus or the On Your Feet challenge
Having more students walk to school through active transport initiatives is also a way that many schools build community while supporting the physical health of students.
My Daycare is Physically Active/ Mon service de garde physiquement actif project.
Given the number of hours and times-of-day that students spend in daycare, ensuring opportunities for physical activity during school-based daycare hours is also key. This project saw the creation of a series of six workshops for daycare educators to support the planning and inclusion of more physical activities into daycare programs (workshops among other topics address the supervision of physical activity- e.g. managing space, transitions, equipment, making teams, working with highly competitive students, safety considerations etc.- both in the gym, classroom spaces and winter/summer play outdoors). This resource is currently in the final stages of being reviewed for sharing province-wide.
Cognitive Function and Learning:
Physical activity in the morning (see video link above); movement breaks in the classroom to manage students’ states of attention/alertness; special projects like Projet MathSport de l’école secondaire Mont-Bleu.
Hallway ‘energy stations’ where students who are having trouble focusing can ask their teacher for a pass to go to a station that houses equipment and/or instructions for physical activities for a set amount of time (using pre-set timers). See this example from Forest Hill Sr. (Lester B. Pearson School Board) and this profile on L’ecole de Paix in Repentigny for another example. Similarly, many schools have DeskCycles or stationary bikes in the classroom.
Building Community and Social Skills Development:
Movement can be used for many fun and engaging activities to build community in the classroom. In his book The Kinesthetic Classroom: Teaching and Learning Through Movement, Mike Kuczala dedicates an entire chapter on using movement for the purpose of developing class cohesion.
Development of Physical Literacy:
The more physically literate that students are, the more likely they are in a position to engage in opportunities for physical activity and to experience all the benefits that physical activity has to offer. Active Hallway initiatives provide students with fun ways to transition from class to class while developing their physical literacy. The Don’t Walk in the Hallway initiative originated in schools out west but many Quebec schools also now have active hallways. The Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec (RSEQ) actually sells active hallway decals, as does the Ever Active Schools organization in Alberta.
Increasing Levels of Student Engagement in Learning:
Teaching academic concepts through movement is a definite winner when in comes to increasing engagement in learning. St. Raphael School (English Montreal School Board) uses materials from Gopher Sport’s Active Academics line (warning – not cheap!) to teach literacy through movement. Many teachers have gotten ideas for teaching math actively from Moving Education. Similarly, for a ton of ideas, Mike Kuczala devotes a whole chapter to teaching new content as well as reviewing content through movement in his book. Teachers who have started using movement more in their instruction often comment that student engagement is one of the benefits they see the most readily.