With the help of a $5,000 grant from Action from Healthy Kids, with support from CSX Transportation, Glen Acres Elementary School in Lafayette, IN., has gotten kids excited about starting the school day through a before-school program that gets them moving – and having fun doing it.
PE Teacher Andrea (Sneed) Bornino, whose father, David Sneed, worked for CSX for 37 years as an equipment operator, wanted to give students the opportunity to wake up their brains and bodies before school and provide them with an extra 15 minutes of physical activity each day. In the fall of 2013, Project Stretch & Go was born, with the funding helping to purchase kid-friendly workout videos, a projector screen and other equipment.
For the first half of the semester, students met in the gymnasium twice a week before the start of classes, and Bornino had them line up by grade level and do stretching exercises, using the workout tapes to keep them engaged. At the end of the activity, to help calm the kids down before class, she instructed them to take deep breaths and do body stretches, telling them to "make today a great day!" Each week, teachers looked on and voted on one grade level to be given an award based on their participation at the end of the nine weeks. The 3rd grade class, named the winner, celebrated with a frozen yogurt party.
To the staff's surprise, the students loved Project Stretch & Go so much that they kept asking for it. "I think Project Stretch & Go is FUN!" said one kindergartener. A fourth grade student said he liked it "because I like to dance".
Teachers were also big fans – for a different reason. "I think Project Stretch & Go helps the kids be more alert when they come to class in the mornings," said Sharon Cadwallader, a 2nd grade teacher at the school.
With accolades from students and staff alike, Bornino has already increased the program to three times a week and plans to offer it every morning by the end of the semester. "Before we started our project, students would tell us they did not complete any exercise before the school day began," she said. "Now we have over 200 students in the gym participating, and they are disappointed when they walk in on days that are not designated Stretch & Go days." It's a great example of how a simple concept can add daily activity to students' lives, while making it fun enough that they'll want to stay active for years to come.