Fitness Frenzy at North WinnPosted: March 28, 2012
Melissa Wicklund and her 4th grade students at North Winneshiek Community School have been working hard to integrate fitness and wellness into their classroom on a daily basis.
"All the 4th grade students wear activity monitors, we take several ‘brain breaks' throughout the day, and the students sit on exercise balls to achieve active learning," Ms. Wicklund says, "This year has been filled with learning opportunities through our new fitness frenzy for both the students and me."
The school received a $1,500 grant from the Northeast Iowa FFI to purchase activity monitors, in part because Ms. Wicklund volunteered to make the program a part of her curriculum.
"It was a great opportunity for me to teach the students about being more active. What I didn't expect was how much it would teach me about my students, my classroom, and myself," Ms. Wicklund reports. Since the beginning of the project, Ms. Wicklund's point of view has changed; "We don't sit for long periods of time anymore - Students are active in my classroom. Whether we're up and moving about doing an activity together or participating in brain breaks [exercise in the middle of a lessons intended to get the students' brains back on task], we are more active on a daily basis than we ever have been before."
Each student wears an activity monitor, a wristwatch tracking physical activity throughout the day. "We encourage movement here at school and at home," Ms. Wicklund explains, "there are no grades associated with the activity diary on their watches, but students do write down their activity so that we can make graphs during math class."
The activity monitors have had an impact upon setting goals during PE class and outside on the playground. But perhaps most importantly, "the activity monitors have made a huge impact on my teaching and the students learning about themselves."
Ms. Wicklund's other big project is to replace all the chairs in her classroom with ball chairs. Ball chairs are stability balls used for exercise and as chairs in offices and schools around the country. "Our most recent project is called ‘Keep Students on the Ball.' We're working on raising the funds to allow all of my students to sit on an exercise ball [during class] to activate their learning. Research says that when students are sitting on exercise balls, their brains are more engaged because they're able to put their brain to work while their body is also physically active."
The work Ms. Wicklund is doing to make her classroom an active place is part of the efforts of the Northeast Iowa FFI, and personal commitment on Ms. Wicklund's part to make her classroom a healthy place.