Culture of Activity: Century Club, Running Club, Jammin' Minute

Physical Activity, Physical Education, Youth | March, 25 2012

What does it take to get kids excited about physical activity? Meadowview Elementary School PE teacher Joe McCarthy can say with confidence the answer does not have to include fancy equipment or competitive sports. Mr. McCarthy believes that all it takes to get kids active is one dedicated individual and a dash of creative energy. At Meadowview Elementary in Farmington, Minnesota, Mr. McCarthy has created a culture of physical activity by introducing a series of innovative programs designed to get kids active while having fun, and providing opportunities for different levels of success. Three such programs, all supplementary to the school's regular physical education classes, are The Running Club, The Century Club, and the Jammin' Minute.

Running ClubEvery morning students at Meadowviewbegin their day with a burst physical activity courtesy of the Jammin' Minute program. Fifth grade students take turns learning a new activity routine each week that includes five simple exercises that kids (and staff) can do while either standing at their desk or sitting in a chair. Teams of student instructors make their way around the school, leading each classroom through the routine. Besides the benefits of daily activity each morning, the program provides valuable leadership opportunities for Meadowview's older students.

The Running Club is designed to increase physical activity among students during recess. While recess represents an important opportunity for unstructured play, Mr. McCarthy noticed that many students were not choosing to be active during this time. The Running Club, open to all students in grades 1-5, creates incentives for kids to run laps around the cross country course during recess. Participating students keep track of the laps they run by placing stickers next to their name on the Running Club chart. As students accumulate stickers, they pass "destinations" on the chart representing the distance they've travelled. When students reach these milestones they are rewarded with a prize from Mr. McCarthy's gift basket. Rather than rewarding kids with toys or candy, Mr. McCarthy solicits fitness-focused gift donations from local businesses. Prizes have included passes to local gyms, tickets to professional sporting events, and pedometers.

The Century Club is a similar model to the Running Club but is designed to encourage students to be active outside of the school day. Open to fourth and fifth grade students, the Century Club rewards points for physical activity – 2 points for vigorous activity, 1 point for light. Points translate to "miles" of activity; for every 25 miles of activity students complete, they get to move their Century Club shoe along a chart to show their progress and receive an incentive prize for their effort.

Mr. McCarthy's strategies are uncomplicated, but artful – he understands how to design programming that will motivate students of varying ages, fitness and ability levels. In a letter to parents, he explains, "We are trying to get away from all of the traditional sport and game activities that have caused many students to lose interest in physical education classes. Instead we are implementing innovative teaching strategies and activities to make each students' experience positive."

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