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School Administrator Makes Time for Movement & Students Reap the Benefits


By our friends at Alliance for a Healthier Generation

As soon as Principal Judi Hayes arrived at Lake Canyon Elementary School in Galt, California – now more than two years ago – she made it a priority to support her students in meeting their recommended minutes of physical activity by creating an active school day.

Working with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, she started by explaining to her staff that making time for physical instruction would actually improve student academic performance. “There is a direct correlation between kids having an opportunity to be physically active and their academic achievement,” Judi said. “When they’re active, they’re more alert, engaged and aware.”

Here’s how Judi was able to create an active school culture at Lake Canyon:

Keep Kids Focused and Moving during Recess

To Judi, recess is just as important to the school day as reading or math. Primary students have recess three times each day – 15 minutes in the morning, 20 minutes during lunch, and another 15 minutes in the afternoon, while intermediate students enjoy two 20-minute daily recess breaks. One of the most popular attractions is a 9-foot tall yellow and blue “ball wall” that acts as a backboard for basketballs, handballs or tennis balls.

Set the Tone for an Active School through Physical Education

Lake Canyon’s physical education teacher follows the California State Board of Education standards for physical education and last year also incorporated FITNESSGRAM®, the official assessment of the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, to improve teachers’ ability to track their students’ progress against goals. Primary students (grades 1-3) now receive 100 minutes of physical education per week and intermediate students (grades 4-6) receive 135.

Move More Before, During and After School

With a supportive administrator, Lake Canyon staff have found ways to incorporate movement throughout the school day. GoNoodle physical activity breaks have become a favorite among teachers. And during the school’s extended school day programming, students can select from several fitness-focused clubs, including a soccer club that is led by middle school students. 

Even the Parent Teacher Association is supportive of the school’s healthy changes, with events focused on fitness such as family dance nights, rather than potluck dinners.

The active school culture Judi has created at Lake Canyon’s is paying off: the school has seen their rates of truancy drop and nearly every student is meeting or exceeding their individual academic and engagement goals.