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What do you think schools can do to increase children’s physical activity?

Asked at Massachusetts Street on September 27, 2006

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Photo of Jacki Saathoff

“They should incorporate more hands-on physical activities in the classroom.”

Photo of Michael Andrews

“I think they should encourage them with some kind of reward system. Maybe give them gift certificates for some healthy products.”

Photo of LaPourchea McConico

“I think it should be part of the curriculum. They should make the parents responsible for getting the kids a certain number of hours of physical activity and have the kids bring in a signed form.”

Photo of Ashley Smarker

“Maybe they could hand out fliers with physical activities outside of school, like at the Lawrence Arts Center or through parks and rec.”

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shuddleston 11 years, 9 months ago

Only serve Jolt Cola, Red Bull, oh and the new Cocaine Drink and play dodge ball all day. Oh wait cannot play dodge ball anymore. Umm ride your bike to school. Oh wait cannot ride your bike. Heck I give up.

trinity 11 years, 9 months ago

lol, bea-"oompa loompa" generation! sad, but so true.

i so agree it begins and has the basis&foundation at home; can't get over what a young mom that works in my building was saying the other day. she said her FOUR year old girl, FOUR-won't/doesn't want to/hardly EVER goes outside to play!!!! that woman must think i'm a meanie from planet grumpy; i told her that back in the day when mine were young, i oftentimes in the summer locked the damn screen door so they COULDN'T do the revolving door thing-i.e. come in&plop in front of the tv or something, on a nice day. DISCLAIMER-the 'hood was very very safe, i made sure they didn't explode from lack of toilet use, and had plenty of beverage/snack breaks,, i and the neighborhood moms all KNEW where our kids were every second! :)

blessed3x 11 years, 9 months ago

Aren't they looking for a use for the lions and tigers at that place outside Oskaloosa? How about a large, predatory cat roaming loose on the school grounds. No worries about vandalism and burglery and the kiddos have ample opportunity to prove they're the fastest runner in the class. That's all I hear from my oldest anway. Prove it! Darwinism at it's finest. Should eliminate the fat kids in a few weeks.

beatrice 11 years, 9 months ago

Now, most of the kids are so big now, they can't even play "Hide and Seek." All they can play is "Seek."

trinity 11 years, 9 months ago

hey, it was a good soapbox speech, teach! :)

you sound a heckuva lot more reasonable than the gym/pe teachers from back in my day. once i hit junior high school, gym class ALWAYS included doing stunts on those dreadful gymnastic torture implements-balance beam, even and uneven parallel bars, etc., THAT definitely left dirty marks on my gym grade! i'd suit up, but i'd be damned if anybody was going to make me do stunts&tricks on those things! :*( same for the "tumbling" routines...simple rolls&such weren't enough for our slavedriver gym teachers, oh no; fancy routines with all kinds of flips&contortions, some worthy of olympic gymnast routines, were the order. again i'd be one of the girls sitting on the sidelines, dressed out but just waiting for the bad grade. now when it came time for active stuff like softball, kickball, volleyball, etc-i'd participate fully! and aerobics, a pe teacher in high school had us doing aerobics before they were "cool", lol...

bankboy119 11 years, 9 months ago

Well it depends what age group they are talking about. If it's elementary school recess needs to come back, and more of it. Instead of boring the kids to death in the classroom the whole day let the children out to play.

If it's older children, you all had some good answers.

concernedparent 11 years, 9 months ago

ceallach, how about going outside to turn the antenna just the right way?

Bone777 11 years, 9 months ago

Make them walk to school uphill bothways in three feet of snow like my grandfather did.

Encourage more games of 'smear the queer'. No offense to any queers, that is just what we called it.

Becca 11 years, 9 months ago

Yeah, when I was kid in grade school we had morning recess, lunch recess and afternoon recess. I asked my nephew the other day what he did in school, and he told me, and I asked about recess. He said "What recess?" That is insane. But at least he gets to play after school. Even if I'm the one chasing him around.

Jeanne Cunningham 11 years, 9 months ago

I think they should get cookies on Friday if they do their exercises during the rest of the week..... ;-)

trinity 11 years, 9 months ago

count me in too, RI! ;)

seems to me that if recess were still a vital part of the school day, as it once was-there would be far less NEED for ritalin&the likes to "control" kids! wow, demanding a child sit&absorb&memorize&learn for what, 7 or 8 solid hours, with NO physical release? i'd have needed a helluva lot more than ritalin to get me through a day like that!

what DID happen to good ol' recess?? from what i'm hearing, it's become a thing of the past in alot of schools. (it's been awhile since my offspring were in grade school-and all mine went private, where recess was still very much included in the day)

sunflower_sue 11 years, 9 months ago

fed up, funny you should mention that teachers need a break, too. My little one's first grade teacher (fresh out of college) took away the kids' recess for any kind of infraction. I told her at PTC's (advice from a knowing mother) that she was only punishing herself and she would really regret not letting those wild ones out to play. She didn't take my advice. (I guess with her fresh education she thought she knew better than I.) It was her first and last year of teaching. Hmmmmm.....

Janet Lowther 11 years, 9 months ago

Remedial phys ed for klutzes.

In the vast and sprawling metropolis of Riverton, Ks. (not) in the early 60s, recess was unstructured play. When we moved to Lawrence recess became all about sports (for the boys, at least): kick ball & softball IIRC. Being a klutz, this discouraged all physical activity, as it modeled only activities I was not good at.

Junior High & High School gym was even worse: It was oriented even more completely towards sports: gymnastics & basketball mostly. To me It seemed to be mostly an hour dedicated to torturing the uncoordinated, providing no remediation as the teacher-coaches concentrated on the athletes, teachers who if anything encouraged further torment of the klutzes.

Physical education teachers should be absolutely forbidden from being coaches. It is a VERY serious conflict of interest.

I probably couldn't walk across the room without tripping over my feet if a friend hadn't introduced me to the KU International Folk Dance Club when I was in High School. Attempting to move to the complex rhythms of Balkan music caught my imagination. I still wasn't good at it, but the music was enough of a reward to keep trying. Eventually I got pretty good at it, even if I still wasn't very quick at picking up new steps.

fed_up 11 years, 9 months ago

Did you all know that registered and certified day care providers in the state of Kansas are required by law to have ALL children UP TO THE AGE OF 12 outside for AT LEAST 1 hour per day if they are in the providers care for 4 hours?
Statute 28-4-438. Child care centers: program.

(b) Unless extreme weather conditions prevail, children shall have a daily period of outdoor play under the supervision of an adult. Children spending more than four consecutive hours at the center shall play outdoors for at least one hour daily.

Public school is obviously exempt from this law... My child is 10 and gets 15 minutes outside in the 6th hour of the 7 hours spent at school. PLUS!! I would think the teachers could use that extra time to regain their bearings or do breathing exercises or something!! Can you imagine being in a room with (20) 9 year olds for 6 hours before they get a recess?

AAAHHHHhhhhhh lol

sourpuss 11 years, 9 months ago

Well, when I was in elementary school, we had gym class twice a week and recess every day, three a day when we were in first and second grade, two a day in third and fourth grade, and one at lunch in fifth and sixth grade. If it was raining, we would have to do this horrible exercise audio tape called "Chicken Fat." Most kids also walked to school since the school was in the neighborhood. I don't know what kids do nowadays, but this worked out okay for us.

Of course, it isn't up to the -schools- to keep fat off of kids (though of course there shoudl be adequate exercise opportunities and healthy meals) but it is the -parents- who have the most effect on their children. Limit time on video games and with television, offer healthy meals at home and restrict junk foods, don't use food for rewards, don't make kids "clean their plates," don't keep soda or sugary fruit drinks in the house, parents, get up off your own butts and take a walk with your kids, or ride bikes with them. Health starts at home.

This would probably get a lot of the kids off the Ritalin too.

SoupBone 11 years, 9 months ago

All teevees should be powered exclusively by treadmill or bicycle power.

Think Gilligan's Island. You can't watch teevee unless you're walking or pedaling!

Same applies to games!

Ken Miller 11 years, 9 months ago

  1. At recess, make them catch small animals, kill them, field dress them and cook them with exotic spices... but only if the school property isn't already maxed out with portables.

  2. Play games like dodgeball, "kill the carrier," etc. to instill in our children the reality of "survival of the fittest."

  3. Outlaw Birkenstocks at school.

  4. Organize school assemblies to watch "Supersize Me."

  5. Make every child run a one-mile lap each week, with three strips of sizzling bacon at the end of the mile.

beatrice 11 years, 9 months ago

I second acg's dodgeball comment, and feel that Kickball is a close second. Games with bouncy red balls are cool!

sunflower_sue 11 years, 9 months ago

My 4th grader gets one 15 minute recess. That's a crock. But at least they haven't banned my kiddies from riding their bikes to school. That 6 mile ride does them a lot of good.

RI, no thanks to the 4 square...always thought it was boring. Let's go for some flag football. Any excuse to reach for someone's bum and I'm in! I hear badmitten can be pretty intense.

Heck, just give the kids boxing gloves. Orthodontists are way underpaid.

ms_canada 11 years, 9 months ago

I think each school should employ an ex-marine drill sgt. to get those lazy louts of their fat butts. He could march them around the school yard during the reintroduced recess. Push ups would be good and they could all carry a heavy back pack, weight according to size of kid. Whip those kids into shape. It is for their own good.

concernedparent 11 years, 9 months ago

R_I one time in 3rd grade we were playing 4 square and a boy threw up his mac and cheese and little smokies on the ball and passed it to me.

Linda Aikins 11 years, 9 months ago

Have a mandatory PE class, like we had. Sit ups, jumping jacks, pushups, etc. Look how normal and healthy our generation (+50) is.

On second thought, gerbil wheels. And bicycles.

trinity 11 years, 9 months ago

lmbo, jonas! :)

fencing?? gimme a's bad enough that the lil' buggars use pencils as weapons, i can only imagine if you hand a kid a sword&turn 'em loose. good god.

elementary kids, RECESS! active, loud, rambunctious, RECESS! unless it's sub-zero, bundle 'em up even when it's cold out&get 'em moving. on inclement weather days, have some sort of physically active recess time indoors. it's NOT impossible, it's been DONE!

fondest memory of elementary school...had a third grade teacher, very old gal, had taught in one-room schoolhouses in the early days of her teaching career. she must have been mid-70's when i had her! and that was in the late '60's. after the lunchtime recess (which was the longest one of the day) she'd sit us down&read a few pages out of a good book to us. by the time she was done reading we'd be settled in&pretty much ready to tackle work-including diagramming sentences! i don't think they even do that, anymore...sigh

jayhoxrock 11 years, 9 months ago

Let me get my soapbox out for a minute. As a physical education teacher (for over nineteen years), I am amused and impressed at some of the suggestions for schools to increase physical activity among children. It sounds as though some of you had some very bad experiences with physical education in the past. I'm curious:. did that turn you off from being physically active as adults? Unfortunately, there are some physical education teachers out there who still feel that physical education class is just a "breeding ground" for sports. Research has shown that an emphasis on sport related/competetive activities have turned kids off from physical activity. The surgeon general recommends at least thirty minutes of vigorous physical activity most days of the week, adults and children alike. Research also shows that most kids (nearly 80%) are kinesthetic learners (through movement and touch) yet most teachers teach to the visual (reading) and auditable (listening/lectures). Unfortunately, with the NCLB, and the demands on criteria referenced tests, physical activity time gets the "boot." Adding more time to physical education class and or recess is not necessarily the answer if the quality of the program/activity is low. I for one, create activities that keep all students engaged in physical movement the entire 25 to 30 minutes (twice a week) they are in my gym. I have the "NCLB" slogan in my classroom, which stands for "No Child Left on their Behind" or the NCLL "No Child Left in Line!" I try to integrate academics from the classroom into my gym. For instance, we will be practicing our throwing/catching skills while spelling words or counting by 3's. Classroom teachers could do the same:incorporate physical activity into their lessons.

I cringe when teachers use recess as a punishment. My suggestion is that the student does not get a choice of activity during recess. The student could walk/jog around the recess ground by him/herself rather than play with their peers. Isolation from peers is a very effective tool. I have aerobic step boxes in my classroom and if a student forgets to wear appropriate shoes for class, the student will step up and down the box during class. Just a few days with the box and I guarantee that the student will remember to wear/bring sneaker on gym days!

I liked the idea of the bus dropping kids off a few blocks from school and making them walk. I'm amazed at how many parents will drive their kids to school when they only live a few blocks. If the parents don't set good examples, the children will never learn.

Okay, I'll step off my soapbox now.

Nikki May 11 years, 9 months ago

I agree with Ms. Smarker, above. The schools no longer hand out fliers for activities. I know one year my child nearly missed cut offs for basketball because they don't hand these out. Parks and Rec mails out things to previous participants, but that doesn't get you new kids. Then there are tons of other options, but kids don't know about them.

About the other comments, they had a program last year (and the year before, but I'm not sure how far it went back) that the parents could write down which activities the kids did and they'd get a swim pass or something for a certain amount of physical activity. It seems like a good idea, but I don't think they had huge participation.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 9 months ago

Youth chain gangs. It's a sure-fire way to increase children's physical activity.

sgtwolverine 11 years, 9 months ago

Oh, and I heartily agree with the reintroduction of recess. It should be an important part of the school day.

Becca 11 years, 9 months ago

Get rid of the ban on dodgeball. That'll solve a bunch of problems.

Fatty_McButterpants 11 years, 9 months ago

Those of you that have young children should look into Waldorf education. They get a lot of exercise. In fact, there's a Waldorf school here in Lawrence called "Prairie Moon". I know several kids that go there and they are always worn out from all of the activity they get (both physical and mental) every day.

muffaletta 11 years, 9 months ago

Have them run in place while they take notes.

acg 11 years, 9 months ago

My kid has gym class one day a week for one hour. That's not enough physical exercise. He gets two 15 minute recesses per day. So figuring that, in a 40 hour school week, he gets 3.5 hours of exercise. I know that's not enough physical activity for him. So when he gets home from school I have him go outside and play. OMG, not outside to play!! No, he doesn't get to plop down in front of the tv and consume 1000 calories in cookies. Nor does he get to plug into a bunch of video games and consume 1000 calories in cookies. Not only does he play outside but he has chores that he must do daily, that are physical in nature so I'm making sure he gets the exercise his little body needs. Why can't more parents do this? I don't understand the thinking of a parent with a fat kid who lets them sit around on their butts watching the tube. But then, the parent is probably a fatty, too, and misery loves company, right?

Oh, to everyone who said bring back dodgeball I can't agree with you more. Dodgeball is the greatest game ever!

Ceallach 11 years, 9 months ago

At school . . . more recess time. Less money for programs to combat obesity at the same time they reduce or eliminate much needed organized exercise and plain old running around time.

At home . . . no remotes allowed anywhere in the house. My parents never had or needed a remote control. As a child, much of my at home exercise was changing channels, changing volume and adjusting the fine tuning, horizonal and vertical. That'll keep them hopping.

beatrice 11 years, 9 months ago

PE, recesses, biking to school -- all great ideas. Don't forget to encourage good old fashioned competition. A kid should come away from PE class having won or loss some type of competition.

But that is what we can do in school. It begins at home, and parents need to limit the amount of time their kids spend playing video games and watching tv. I think an indoor lifestyle of tv and video games, plus constantly eating high fat foods has resulted in what I like to call Generation Ompa-Lompa. Their X-er parents grew up with video games, so that don't stop the kids, plus they never learned to actually cook meals -- home-cooking to too many today means opening packages and heating ingredients. When I see kids eating Lunchables for lunch, it just makes me sad. Yuck.

Hey bankboy, nice to see you back.

Bone777 11 years, 9 months ago

Double dose of Ritalin and faster school bullies.

geekin_topekan 11 years, 9 months ago

Have an extended recess!30 minutes in the morning and afternoon and 45 at lunch. Also,make parents sign an agreement up front that they will be counter-sued and fined if they bring any frivolous lawsuits against the school if their kid gets hurt and they try to blame anybody but God.

beatrice 11 years, 9 months ago

Ha, ha, ha! I should have seen that coming. Now, get your heads out of the gutter. We are talking about kids and recess today.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 9 months ago

TOB, you just so didn't call me RI! You'd better shape up or I'm gonna go all Bea on you!

mom_of_three 11 years, 9 months ago

There is still recess in grade school, along with PE, but that doesn't mean the kids are actually active while outside.
The past couple of years there was something where kids could earn passes and such by doing other exercise (and it has already been mentioned). One of my kids did it, and it was easy because she was playing basketball on a team. My younger one didn't.
As long as kids go outside and play, they should get plenty of activity. Mine are all in junior high and high school and will still go out to play with the much younger neighborhood kids.

sunflower_sue 11 years, 9 months ago

TOB, are you kidding? If I thought it was that easy to get rid of RI, I'd organize and even fund the games!

Seriously, though, in "my neck of the woods" we have a "neighborhood association" that plans kickball, baseball, badmitten, trampolene, and football games. Then, after a few drinks, we teach the kids "shooting sports." Fun for all! (I especially love the part where a ball gets kicked over "copperhead hill" and someone has to go get it. Who doesn't love obstacle courses?) This activity is guaranteed to get your heart pounding and make you sweat. Ah, good times!

H_Lecter 11 years, 9 months ago

I think that the kids should read, "The Lottery" by Shirley Jackson and then reinact the last scene for exercise. If you haven't read it, it is a classic American short story that we had to read in college English class.

Don't skip to the end, it really spoils the story.

linux_chick 11 years, 9 months ago

I never really liked the Lottery, but I felt cheated after I saw the Island in the theater (it's the same friggin story. boo..)

sister 11 years, 9 months ago

I infiltrated the school system last year and in my Junior High I have seen nothing but great things happening in the P.E. classes. What saddens me, is that the students are allowed only one semester of P.E. class per year. It is not an option for them to take it as an elective the other semester. Not even for children that have health concerns (obesity, mental health issues, etc.) that could really benefit from the extra activity. The reasons, from what I've been told, are a lack gym space in the schools to accomodate larger classes, and not enough teachers to supervise them. Space should not be an issue next year, since the school bond is funding the construction of larger gyms. Whether or not there will be enough teachers is another issue. Being the parent of a child who needs lots of physical activity on a daily basis, I would love to see P.E. become an elective class option. I still hold myself accountable for making sure my child gets the activity he needs, but the added benefits of activity during school hours are huge. Concentration, attitude and emotional stability all improve for many children when they get those important breaks for physical activity, not to mention that exercise is one of the best tools we can teach them to use for stress reduction. I personally think it is not unreasonable to request optional year-round P.E. from the District.

Until that day happens, perhaps all students who are required to stay after school for detention should be given cleaning jobs. It would keep them more active and we might actually get the classrooms clean, too.

letsgetwise 11 years, 9 months ago

Keep recess at the elementary level, and let them earn extra playtime outside, or high energy game time in gym. Keep PE Classes a requirement and encourage intramural sports for those not participating in the competitive sports. Requiring signed forms from parents is getting old. It is my job to keep my kids busy at home...or not. I do not need the schools approval of the exercise activity at home.

killjoy 11 years, 9 months ago

do what the stores do, play fast tempo music over the p.a. system

serve coffee first hour

let them play paintball instead of eating lunch

encourage kids to join gangs

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