May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month, and Bournedale Elementary School is challenging students and their families to be more active.
With the help of $500 from the Reebok Foundation and parent volunteers, Bournedale physical education teacher Kathleen G. Cleary is piloting a six-week, before-school exercise program called Build Our Kid’s Success (BOKS), a national program sponsored by the foundation.
“The whole program is based on the premise that active kids are healthy kids,” Ms. Cleary said.
The stated mission of the program is “to promote the profound impact of physical activity on a child’s mind, body and community,” Kathleen Thulle, founder of the BOKS program, wrote.
Participating schools are specifically asked to institute the program, in the morning, before school in order to mentally jump-start students with activity, in preparation for a day of using their minds. “Exercise is the single most powerful tool that we have to optimize the function of our brains,” Ms. Thulle wrote.
Volunteer Kelly M. Snover of Monument Beach agrees. “We are just starting the third week and already teachers are commenting that the kids who are participating are able to sit longer and focus better, especially now during MCAS testing,” Ms. Snover said. Ms. Snover helps with the student sign-up and the administrative paperwork of the BOKS program and is a recess monitor for Bournedale.
A total of 60 children from all grade levels are currently participating Tuesday and Thursday mornings in the school gym, field and playground areas. They are learning that many backyard games, such as tag, as well as dance and play can be considered exercise. Pogo sticks, hockey sticks, balls, jumpropes, stomp rockets, balls of varying sizes are available to students during the free play portion of the morning program.
“Backyard equipment is something that students are likely to have at home, and using it here encourages them to also pick them up and use them more at home,” Ms. Cleary said.
Music is played for a dance warm-up, which can also be done at home.
The program needs one volunteer for every 20 children who participate. Ms. Cleary is running the pilot but feels the program could easily be run by volunteers in the future.
Students also need to be dropped off before school so they require their own transportation. “I wanted to come to this so bad I told my mom she could drop me off early and she could go to work earlier,” 2nd grader Samuel J. Moreno said. Ms. Cleary hopes to expand the program in the fall and have more families carpool to aid in student transportation.
In addition to the BOKS program, Ms. Cleary is serious about physical fitness for her students and school families. She creates physical education practice packs to send home with students. Depending upon the student grade level the packs could contain jumpsacks, tennis balls, playground balls, jump ropes and a toss and catch toy, along with suggested games and activities for each item. The activities are meant to help children stay active at home and to enhance their motor skills as they physically develop.
Ms. Cleary and three students are also trying out a digital activity bracelet that syncs a student’s movement into a computer program that converts movement into activity points. The idea is to challenge students to add up more and more activity points. If the bracelet and computer program engage her students to be more active, she will consider investing in them for all students.
Ms. Cleary likes to challenge her students and has also teamed up with the Bourne Early Childhood Council to create a brochure and activity challenge to families to explore local hiking and biking trails, with suggested locations listed in the brochure. The challenge asks families to visit at least five trails and visit three playgrounds with their family by the end of May.
Last but not least in Ms. Cleary’s effort to promote physical fitness month is an invite to all kindergartners and soon-to-be kindergartners to participate in backyard games at the Bournedale Elementary School playground on Thursday, May 22, from 4:30 until 6 PM. Parents can learn about the physical education department and staff and the suggested games and activities that can be played at school and at home by attending this event.
Parent volunteer Mary M. Rainor of Buzzards Bay and her husband, Martin E. Rainor, know the importance of physical fitness. Mr. Rainor used to be a semi-professional basketball player and the couple helps to run a winter basketball group at the elementary school on Wednesdays, January through March. Ms. Rainor also helps the BOKS pilot. “Not only do students benefit from the exercise but they also benefit from participating with their peers at every grade level. The younger kids get to interact with the older kids they wouldn’t normally interact with in classes. The older students really help the younger kids. I would love it if the BOKS program could run every day,” Ms. Rainor said.