Exercise program at elementary designed to improve academic work

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle North Elementary students in the BOKS program do lunge walking as part of the program’s exercise routine the morning of March 13.

Joel Stottrup / Union-Eagle
North Elementary students in the BOKS program do lunge walking as part of the program’s exercise routine the morning of March 13.

Approximately 30 students at North Elementary have been running, stretching, playing a skill game or two and listening to a short talk on nutrition two mornings per week since early January with the goal of being more fit and doing better academically.

Physical education instructors Kelly Dorr and Josie Zytkovicz lead a group of students in grades three through five in the program Build Our Kids’ Success, or BOKS.

The BOKS routine runs 30-40 minutes Tuesdays and Thursday mornings. Each session emphasizes a physical skill, such as, on March 13, “walking lunges,” where students walked in such a way as to stretch and strengthen the legs. The participants also formed into small groups and ran up and down the gym while tossing a ball between group members.

A BOKS website states that “exercise is the single most powerful tool that we have to optimize the function of our brains.” It also states that the BOKS before-school physical activity program is designed to “jump-start kids’ brains and prepare them for a day of learning.”

North Elementary paraprofessional Sara Clemons said, “We’re seeing huge improvements” in kids being more ready for learning after exercising before school. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain, resulting in students being less easily agitated, Clemons added.

The kids also enjoy the BOKS activities, Dorr said.

Zytkovicz had a picture of two brain scans that illustrated the brain having more activity after the exercise than before. BOKS literature cites studies in Georgia, Illinois and California showing that students who exercised significantly improved their intelligence test scores and core subjects at school, compared to their inactive counterparts.

Reebok awarded a $1,000 BOKS grant to North Elementary for this school year, with half of that given up front and the rest to come after the 12-week BOKS activity ends. Dorr said the money received up front was used to buy BOKS T-shirts for the participants and the last half of the grant will be used to restart the BOKS activity next school year.

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