This blog is the fourth in a series of posts written with staff and students at Oregon Active Schools elementary schools. Oregon Active Schools supports programs that inspire a lifelong love of physical activity and its many benefits for every child in Oregon through opportunities to be active before, during and after school.
[Image description: Five kids play on a playground carousel. One girl leans back over the edge, her braid flying. One sits and dangles her legs over the side.]
HERE'S WHAT AIKEN ELEMENTARY STAFF HAD TO SAY ABOUT OREGON ACTIVE SCHOOLS:
Q. How did your school use its Oregon Active Schools grant?
A. In 2014, Aiken Elementary applied for the $3,000 grant to construct a walking trail, but after calculating the cost we realized the expenses for the trail significantly outweighed the aid provided by the grant. Northwest Health Foundation allowed the school to repurpose the grant to help fund the building of a new playground. This funding allowed the Aiken PTO, Oregon Active Schools and Ontario School District to partner to add three new playground structures to the Aiken campus. The ribbon cutting event was well-attended and a healthy “create your own” snack-mix station was provided by OSU Extension staff.
In 2015, Aiken Elementary applied for an additional $3,000 grant to fund a walking program at the school. Aiken partnered with OSU Extension staff Barbara Brody and Jill Hoshaw to outline a plan to increase the amount of physical activity opportunities students receive in the school day. Included in this project will be a spring kick-off assembly, jog-a-thon, walking club, and recognition of students who are making health conscious choices when it comes to exercise and nutrition.
Q. What sort of changes have you seen in your school related to physical activity?
A. Through the additional funding and a partnership with OSU Extension, students are given far more opportunities to get out of their desks, learn healthy life skills, and move. The new playground equipment has been very popular with students and it is the busiest place on the playground. If you drive by Aiken Elementary on evenings or weekends you can see students and other community members enjoying use of these new installations.
This year, OSU staff trained teachers at Aiken to implement the use of Balanced Energy Physical Activity Toolkits. Through the use of this resource from October to December, students have increased their physical activity by 2,298 minutes, or over 38 hours. Since obtaining grant funding, Aiken has made physical education and nutrition a focus of family and community events.
Q. Why do you believe physical activity in schools is important?
A. Physical activity in schools is important because we are teaching children skills to be successful in life. Health plays a major part in overall success. We know from data gathered that students who receive adequate physical activity opportunities have better behavior and academic performance. We want to provide students with the best education possible, and providing them physical education plays a crucial role.
HERE'S WHAT AIKEN ELEMENTARY STUDENTS HAD TO SAY ABOUT OREGON ACTIVE SCHOOLS:
Q. How has recess changed since Oregon Active Schools started at your school?
Alina, 3rd grade: “We get to play more fun things in PE. We had a contest on how many bean bags each person could throw into a bucket. The spinny thing is my favorite part of the new playground. I sometimes come play at Aiken on the weekends.”
J.J., 3rd grade: “We get to play more activities in PE. The slide is my favorite thing on the playground. I like to play indoor soccer.”
Q. What is your favorite part about recess or PE?
Will, 1st grade: “My favorite part of PE is when we start to play with bean bags and buckets. We go in groups and then we start to play. We go run to the other buckets and try to put the bean bags in the other buckets. We try to empty our bucket and fill someone else’s bucket. My favorite game is soccer when I get to practice and play games.”
Q. Why do you think physicial activity in schools is important?
Brooke, 5th grade: “It’s important because every kid needs exercise. Playing outside makes me happy. Fresh air is good for kids. It helps my mind focus. It’s free to play at school, but for city sports you have to pay money.”
Aiken Elementary is one of Ontario School District's five elementary schools.