Posted Date: 03/24/2017
Credit: Standard Democrat
For many students, a normal school day is spent sitting at a desk for most of the day. A new partnership between the YMCA of Southeast Missouri and the Sikeston Alternative School is trying to change that.
Called an Active Education Program, the idea is to use physical activity to help enhance academic ability. Brandy Mason, member and program experience director at the YMCA, came up with the idea after researching possible opportunities to address childhood obesity.
“In the midst of the research, I found several articles regarding the correlation between activity and academics,” Mason said. “Several studies indicated that, if completed within specific guidelines, physical activity can enhance academic ability.”
Various schools around the United States have implemented similar programs and have seen an increase in test scores as well as math and reading levels.
“I was impressed by the results the other schools were achieving and wondered if we might be able to implement a similar program in our schools,” Mason said. “After reaching out to Jeff Williams, principal at the Alternative School, and Sikeston Public School administration, we began our Active Education Program in January.”
Williams said he believes in the importance of physical activity and was happy to be the pilot school for the program.
“We wanted as many students as possible involved so we worked out a schedule where our younger students would come three days a week and our older students would come during PE class,” Williams said.
YMCA intern Katie Koonce oversees the program at the Alternative School daily as her senior project for her health management major at Southeast Missouri State University.
“I take each class and put them through a workout,” Koonce said. “Every day is a little different. Some days we will do mainly cardio. Others days we will do some weights.”
Koonce said the whole idea of the program is to get these students active and moving. “Studies have shown that kids that are physically active do better in the classroom and most of the time their behavior is better,” Koonce said.
Before the program even began, students who were going to take part were given academic and physical tests in order to have a baseline comparison at the end of the semester. Mason said the baselines were also used to help students create goals.
“Students have a workout to complete each time they take part in the Active Education program,” Mason said. “Specific data points for each student are being tracked throughout the semester. It is our hope that we will see positive results both academically and physically when the program is complete in May.”
Williams believes the program is going well.
“Our students seem like they really enjoy coming,” Williams said. “They are more engaged. I think the teachers see that they are more engaged during the school day and that is one of the reasons we are doing it, to help them perform better academically.”
Williams said that performing better academically is only one reason the program is needed. He also is in favor of the health aspect of it, because in today’s society “people have become more stationary.”
“I think it is important for kids to be active every day,” Koonce said. “Whether it is just walking or doing some body weight exercises, kids really need that outlet of expending their energy so they can be more focused and healthier overall. Exercise doesn’t just improve your physical health but it helps your mental health and social health as well.”
As the program nears its halfway point, Mason said it is enjoyable seeing the excitement in the students.
“The most rewarding part of this program for me has been to watch students become excited about being healthier, gain confidence in themselves as their intimidation about exercising lessens and grow in their knowledge about healthy lifestyles,” Mason said.
While there are some hurdles to clear, such as costs, everyone involved is in favor of the program continuing.
“We hope to continue doing it next year,” Williams said. “Maybe even expanding it somehow and involving our total school. It’s a great program. It was a great idea.”