Oregon school finds success with the ‘Fit to Live and Learn’ physical education program

22 May


The goal of this society should be to raise healthy and happy children who will grow into concerned and involved adults who care about their fellow citizens and environment. In order to accomplish this goal, all children must receive a good basic education and in order to achieve that goal, children must arrive at school, ready to learn.There is an epidemic of childhood obesity and obesity is often prevalent among poor children. The American Heart Associationhas some great information about Physical Activity and Children http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/Physical-Activity-and-Children_UCM_304053_Article.jsp#.TummU1bfW-c


An Oregon school has had success with a physical education program called “Fit to Live and Learn” which is based on the book the book “Spark” by Dr. John J. Ratey.


Portland Public School News reported about the success Benson school has had with the “Fit to Live and Learn” program in the article, New Benson PE/Health curriculum is fat-burning success:



Benson teachers have redesigned their PE/Health curriculum with pound-shedding and academic-performance-enhancing results for students.


PE/Health teachers Katie Meyer and Linda McLellan began talking last year about re-designing their curriculum. After reading the book “Spark” by Dr. John J. Ratey, they decided to blend PE and Health into one course taught daily for a block period. Fit to Live and Learn was born.


The book presents a strong argument for the connection between brain function and physical activity. Benson’s Fit to Live & Learn program provides physical activity for freshmen everyday as well as lessons on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Students set physical and academic goals and track their progress.


Benson has a full time Health Corps staff member, Amy Barras, who has also been instrumental in the design of the program and has assisted in forging community partnerships and writing grants. Nike has contributed $20,000 and a Nike fuel band for every freshman to use the second semester to track their exercise. Approximately 30 staff members are also participating in the fuel band activity.


Decisive results


The results in the first three months of the program have been compelling:


  • 240 freshmen lost a total of 868 pounds – 3.6 pounds per student on average – with one student losing 39 pounds.

  • Endurance has improved with 300 total minutes cut from the mile run time, an average improvement of 1.3 minutes per student.


In addition, compared to last year’s freshmen, there is preliminary data that shows an increase in the number of students who successfully earned credit the first semester and a decrease in freshman referrals for disciplinary reasons compared to last year.


“Health Corps is very interested in the design of the program and will potentially use it as a model for other high schools,” said Principal Carol Campbell. “The teachers are using the data as part of their professional development this year in the form of action research. Congratulations to Katie Meyer, Linda McLellan and Amy Barras for their collaboration and hard work, thanks to Nike for being such a great partner and way to go Benson freshmen!”


Benson students “weigh in” on experience:


It helps me stay fit and also teaches me that if I don’t exercise in the future, a lot of health issues could come up.”

“I have become very responsible since I started this class.”

“I love the fact that I have good sleep, I feel stronger and it releases my stress….”

“It really does help my mental strength and endurance. Even if I really hate exercising sometimes, I get through it and improve.”

“I actually want to exercise now.”

“Because of this class, my work ethic, my attitude and how careful I am about my health has changed.”


See the class featured on KGW Feb. 25. http://www.pps.k12.or.us/news/8381.htm


Here is information about the physical education program on which the Benson program is based,Exercise before and fitness activities interspersed with lectures lead to a state of heightened awareness and improved academic performance:


Discover how Sparking Life can help your students achieve their maximum potential


While Naperville’s model of scheduling PE before academic classes (Math, Science, English) and achieving robust levels of exercise has increased focus and boosted cognitive abilities for those students, other programs have found success by incorporating movement during lessons or frequent breaks.


What model is right for your school?


Consider the outlines below and then call us at Sparking Life: We’ll help you develop programs tailored to the needs of your school and your students. Join our fitness movement by calling 857-221-1839 or click athornton@sparkinglife.org.


1) Naperville P.E. Model


  • Mr. Phil Lawler pioneered this model at Naperville, IL

  • Moves P.E. class away from a “sports-driven” model to an “individual student fitness” model

  • Skill development no longer the primary goal of P.E.; rather, focus shifts to facilitating each student in raising heart rate at his/her own individual ideal pace

  • Elements of student autonomy in both the selection of daily activities and the maximum heart rate achieved (duration and intensity)

  • Primary focus in P.E. class involves high-intensity interval training two days per week, and motor development and recreation/play the other three days

  • Use of heart rate monitors by every student to enable and ensure participation at each individual’s personal optimum peak activity level

  • Use of heart monitors by students to assign grades for P.E. class (i.e., student needs to raise heart rate to a zone between 145–185 bpm for twenty minutes to receive an A grade for that day – based on individual student heart rate target levels)

  • Use of heart monitors by P.E. teacher to direct individual exercise programs and for overall class evaluation

  • By scheduling P.E. before academic classes (Math, Science, English) and achieving robust levels of exercise, program increased focus and boosted cognitive abilities (specifically in the hour immediately following P.E.)

  • Represents an excellent first step along an evolution that fully incorporates exercise’s benefits throughout the school day


      Subsequent adaptation at Naperville: Zero Hour P.E. Model


  • Students voluntarily participate in high intensity exercise BEFORE the school day begins

  • Model initiated for lower-performing students in order to create optimal brain chemistry BEFORE school starts

  • P.E. Teacher coordinates activities and exercises for students, performed on their own time with no grades attached

  • Grew out of awareness that P.E. before the toughest classes of the day was as useful as Naperville’s New P.E.

  • Guidance counselors suggest to students that they should schedule P.E. before toughest classes

  • School administration had known about the academic power post exercise

  • Not just for lagging/poor but also high achieving student


Naperville’s latest exercise innovation Learning: Readiness P.E. Model (L.R.P.E.)


  • Classroom for reading class, as well as its curriculum and class rules, designed to allow students to choose the physical manner of their daily participation in class (i.e., sitting at a conventional desk, standing, balancing on a ‘bo-so’ ball, ‘kick-boards’, balancing on an exercise ball, or riding a stationary bike either slow or fast)

  • Voluntary program that targets students in grades nine and ten who are underperforming in reading

  • New P.E. scheduled immediately prior to an L.R.P.E. reading class

  • Optimum heart rate zone raised to between 160–190

  • Hybrid of the Saskatoon Model and the Naperville P.E. model in combination with advanced teaching techniques that encourage movement during classroom content instruction


2) Saskatoon “In-Class” P.E. Model


  • Model adopted in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan school system

  • During teacher instruction, students have ability to choose to sit, stand, walk, run, or cycle while listening and doing their work

  • Allows use of treadmills and stationary cardiovascular equipment within the classroom during instruction time

  • Incorporates weight training two days per week


3) Finnish P.E. Model


  • Allows students and teachers time to exercise or play between every class for twenty minutes, with encouragement and support

  • Enables exercise’s benefits on the brain to be sustained throughout the school day


4) Proposed Concept P.E. Model


  • Promote physical fitness as a central and underlying school theme

  • Co-curricular learning involving interdisciplinary synergy of P.E., science, and mathematics departments

  • Re-design curriculum to maximize benefits of physical activity on brain function and learning throughout the school day, encouraging genuine school-wide subscription and universal participation

  • P.E. focuses on principles of personal physical fitness and its impact on cognition and well-being, as well as student mastery of personal activity data collection (electronic or manual heart rate diagnoses)

  • Science class touches on Krebs cycle, brain composition, and cardiovascular components

  • Mathematics class curriculum includes understanding, review, and analysis of empirical evidence, tables, equations, and statistics

  • Increasing heart rate does not have to be an expensive proposition, funding demands can be minimal; while heart rate monitors are seen as beneficial and desirable, they’re certainly not essential


Re-design curriculum to maximize benefits of physical activity on brain function and learning throughout the school day, encouraging genuine school-wide subscription and universal participation  




Physically fit children are not only healthier, but are better able to perform in school.




Louisiana study: Fit children score higher on standardized tests    https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/louisiana-study-fit-children-score-higher-on-standardized-tests/


School dinner programs: Trying to reduce the number of hungry children https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/school-dinner-programs-trying-to-reduce-the-number-of-hungry-children/


Children, body image, bullying, and eating disorders                https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/children-body-image-bullying-and-eating-disorders/


The Healthy Schools Coalition fights for school-based efforts to combat obesity https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/the-healthy-schools-coalition-fights-for-school-based-efforts-to-combat-obesity/


Seattle Research Institute study about outside play https://drwilda.wordpress.com/tag/childrens-physical-activity/



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