Last year at Roosevelt Park Community School, we decided to begin a daily physical activity (DPA) program that would be school-wide and take place every morning. This way we could help our students wake up in the mornings, get everyone moving, and also provide time for the students who are chronically late to arrive before teachers start their academic lessons.
For the first year of this program, we used “Just Dance” videos and our Wii system to get everyone dancing. However, at the end of the year we started to question whether it would be better to use more variety, and what kind of effect something ‘quieter’ would have on the students and their ability to focus after leaving the gym. This is from where our inquiry question was born.
While still running DPA every morning, this year we have changed things up to include yoga, adventure videos, Zumba, and some fun relay activities. With the help of the HSN Inquiry Grant, we were able to purchase some new ‘large group’ gym equipment to add to our relays and to provide events we could do outdoors with the students as well. Our focus in these activities is keeping the kids moving and interacting with each other, while providing activities of interest to as many kids as we can. Students and staff are great at letting us know which activities they really enjoy and which ones they find less motivating. During relays, students also show great responsibility in looking out for their teammates despite how well or how little they might know them. Because our school is dual track, DPA is another way to integrate our streams and have students interacting and playing with each other.
While we will still continue to look into the effect of different DPA activities on learning and student focus, we have made some interesting observations. The more ‘quiet’ activities, such as yoga, kept some of the kids more relaxed and less excited after leaving the gym. However, this wasn’t the same effect for everybody. It has become apparent that each of our students reacts differently to each DPA program, and therefore keeping the variety has proven to be important. For example, some kids like the fast pace and louder music connected with dancing as it wakes them up in the morning, while others need that time to stretch and slowly get moving. Student performance following DPA also varies in this respect once students are back in their classrooms. Nonetheless, when we stopped doing dance as much to provide students with more options we had many requests to bring it back again!
At this point, our plan is to continue with our morning DPA and providing the variety that allows us to hit ALL of our learners’ wants and needs!