Students at the Paul Revere and Whelan Schools will be part of a large study conducted by Tufts University that looks to show students who are more active during the school day are more likely to score better on standardized tests.
The study is being conducted by Catherine Wright, Paula Duquesnay and Elizabeth Langevin for the Friedman School of Nutrition at Tufts. There are 19 other schools in Massachusetts participating in the study besides the two Revere elementary schools. The study is funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
“I think we know kids should be moving and getting 60 minutes of real exercise every day,” said Wright. “Some 30 minutes of that should be in school. We know the school day is packed and focused on standardized tests and academics…If kids can move more during the school day and that can be tied to better academic performance by data, maybe we can influence funding decisions for these programs.”
Last week at the Paul Revere, students who are participating were called to the cafeteria where they answered questionnaires, were measured/weighed and were fitted with an accelerometer.
The accelerometer is the key to the study.
The instrument is a small computer, about the size of half dollar, worn around the waist that tracks the activity and movement of students during and after school. Students are only to take it off when they sleep.
“It can measure the intensity of activity,” said Wright. “We can tell if a person is sedentary, moderately active or vigorously exercising. It has a time function so we can tell what time of day it is when they are and are not active. There is not GPS so we can’t track them. It’s unique and it gives us a lot of good information. We can’t tell what they’re doing, but we can tell the intensity of the activity. They will wear it seven days a week during all waking hours.”
Study leaders – which also include graduate students from Boston University and Northeastern University – will return to the two schools over the next two years to analyze student standardized test scores and to check the accelerometer and the measurements.
At the Paul Revere, students will also be participating in a classroom movement regimen via a computer program called ‘Just Move.’ At several times during the day, students will stop what they’re doing and engage in a series of exercises at their desk in the classroom.
Those movements include squats and running in place and jumping jacks – among other things.
The intervals are known as “brain breaks” and total up to 15 minutes per day.
At the Whelan School, the kids in the study have the same accelerometer, but instead of the ‘Just Move’ program, they have instituted the ‘100-mile Club.’
Students at the Whelan have pledged to walk 100 miles during the year, or roughly three miles per week.
Both of the activity programs are purposefully low budget, making them easier to implement.
“A lot of administrators and educators fee they don’t have time for that 30 minutes in the day and requiring it has become known as an unfunded mandate,” said Langevin. “We are trying to identify programs that can be implemented without the need for additional resources and complement the good physical education that is already happening in schools.”
Suzanne Harvey, physical education teacher at the Paul Revere, said she supports the program and feels kids do need more physical activity in the day – even if it is at their desks in the classroom.
“I think as much as they can move in the classroom is great,” she said. “Any way we can get them to be active is critical.”