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November 6, 2017

FRESH gets students moving in classrooms

Photos/Cassandra Brown
Hayden Dang hops to it during a FRESH vocabulary exercise at P.B. Smith Elementary School near Warrenton.
Anytime you incorporate any type of movement into learning, it’s good for the children’s attention span and different ways of learning.
— P.B. Smith Elementary School teacher Katie Compton
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
Leaping and lunging, P.B. Smith Elementary second-graders learned about nouns and adjectives while exercising in their classroom Thursday morning.

Part of the school system’s Fauquier Reaches for Excellence in School Health (FRESH) program, the activity incorporated organized exercise with learning.

“It’s important for their focus and attention and for them to learn,” second-grade teacher Gail Angelos said. “If they are just sitting in their desks all day, you’re not going to get much out of them.”

During Thursday’s activity, the students jumped on dots containing a variety of words — icy, turkey, tall, doctor. They learned how to differentiate nouns from adjectives, spell the words and use them in a sentence.

“We can get sweaty and healthy,” second-grader Colbi Ann Werner said.

P.B. Smith teacher Katie Compton has seen physical activity in the classroom benefit her students.

After the 30-minute “brain breaks,” her students easily refocus on their lessons, Ms. Compton said.

“Anytime you incorporate any type of movement into learning, it’s good for the children’s attention span and different ways of learning,” she said. “It’s very easy to incorporate movement into any subject.”

The program has four Fitness Integration Team Specialists (FITS), who visit assigned kindergarten through second-grade classrooms throughout Fauquier’s school system. Once a month, students in those classes participate in 30-minute activities led by FIT instructors.

“My main job is to work with . . . teachers to give them more ideas and incorporate SOLs (Standards of Learning) into moving activities that are purposeful,” FIT instructor Kara Hallet said.

Ms. Hallet visits about 40 classrooms a month at three schools.

FIT instructors work with teachers to apply specific content to physical activities.

Teachers can use the games to teach a variety of school subjects, from math to science and history.

“We want teachers to feel comfortable adding more organized movement into their SOL lessons throughout the day,” Ms. Hallet said.

The physical activity portion of FRESH began in August. In the future, the school system hopes to expand physical activity lessons to all grades.

“We are trying to mesh a culture of health and wellness learning for a holistic education,” said Ms. Hallet, who previously worked five years as Fairfax County Public School’s lead physical education teacher.

“It is proven that when you move and learn at the same time . . . your brain activity is higher and you absorb more.”

In addition to physical activity in the classroom, FRESH also focuses on providing healthier meal options in cafeterias, after-school clubs and community outreach events.

FRESH seeks “to create a culture of health and wellness for students, staff and the community,” program Supervisor Pam Pulver said.

The Warrenton-based PATH Foundation has provided $1.4 million in grants to fund FRESH over the last two years. The program started as a pilot in 2016.  

That funding pays for the FRESH supervisor, program coordinator, a head chef and four FIT instructors, along with after-school clubs, new cafeteria equipment and other items.

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