Before the school bell rings, many students at Edmonds’ Sherwood Elementary School are already breaking a sweat.
At 8 a.m., physical education teacher Pamela Thain opens up the gymnasium doors, plays loud music and tosses various equipment on the floor. Immediately, students start running, hula hooping, jump roping and hopping around with pogo sticks.
“It’s jump day!” Thain says as she directs students to different activity stations.
For about an hour, this group of nearly 50 kids is in constant motion. They’re getting all the benefits of morning exercise, not to mention they are laughing the whole time.
Sherwood Elementary is a part of the “Move 60!” fitness movement that is taking over the Edmonds School District.
Designed to offer youth free opportunities to stay active outside of the regular school day, “Move 60!”s The hour-long sessions are open before and after school to any student in second to sixth grade. Each day has a theme, such as jumping and running, which rotate every 10 days.
The driving forces behind the program are Jennie Hershey and Jenni McCloughan, health and fitness coordinators for the Edmonds School District and Move 60! coordinators. With a goal to make exercise fun for kids, the duo — otherwise known as “the two Jennies” — applied for and received a three-year grant from the Verdant Health Commission.
They launched straight into training teachers and a few parents to run the sessions and soon after, “Move 60!” was running at eight elementary schools.
Now, for the third and last year of the grant, “Move 60!” has expanded to all 22 elementary schools in the school district.
“We have a lot of territory to cover, but that makes it more fun,” said Hershey, who along with McCloughan visits all of the schools involved.
The Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition also launched a fitness program with a similar goal in mind: Gear Up and Go.
Instead of hosting themed fitness hours, the coalition is giving thousands of fifth graders in Snohomish County free YMCA youth memberships and wristbands that track their movement. Students involved can log on to a website that is connected to the gadget to earn rewards based on their progress and engage with their peers online.
The wristband is used as a tracking tool for experts to measure fitness trends. According to Carly Kaufman, the Gear Up and Go strategic program manager, the team is interested in finding out how often students move and what influences them to engage in activity.
Sherwood Elementary and Hazelwood Elementary School in Lynnwood are turning the program into a friendly competition. The two schools are gathering student points and comparing the totals to see which school is more active. The prize is still up for debate. But, Thain explained, it is going involve something physical.
“I’m thinking we’ll go to the other school and watch them run and make them do push ups,” Thain said with confidence since Sherwood “smoked” Hazelwood during the last competition.
While bragging rights are at stake, the point of the competition goes beyond school pride.
“The whole idea is to get students to be intrinsically motivated to be healthy and active,” Kaufman said. “We want them to be life-long movers.”
With childhood obesity rates on the rise along with research that shows the benefits of fitness on student academic performance, these innovative programs highlight local efforts to keep physical education a top priority – and something that is fun for kids.
“Ultimately, we want to make fitness something kids want to do, not have to do. That’s what’s going to instill better habits in the future,” McCloughan said.
— Story and photos by Marika Price