West St. Paul School Uses Classroom-Based Physical Activity

Updated: 01/28/2013 6:38 PM KSTP.com By: Katherine Johnson

Deb Flynn's 4th grade class at Garlough Environmental Magnet School is not your average classroom.  And the students are far from average, as well.  They've improved their test score averages by 20% percent all by staying active.

"Many schools in the United States are actually cutting down on Phys Ed and recess to get more instructional time in. We believe the instructional time will be better because of recess and physical education," said Flynn.

The principal of the West Saint Paul school purchased treadmills and portable pedals through a grant, placing them in classrooms for students to use during reading and math.  It's a school-wide effort to help students use their extra energy while staying focused.

"Kids need to move pretty frequently during the school day, even high school kids, to keep their brains motivated," she said.

And it's working.  

4th grader Olivia Allen says she used to get distracted easily in class.

"Your brain really starts to hurt when you're just reading and not doing anything else," she said.

Now she has something to help her stay motivated throughout the day.

"Your feet and arms and stuff, they just fell asleep.  I think this is a lot better."

"I've seen a big change.  No body's laying with their head on the table," said Flynn.  "If the treadmill is open and a kid wants to go on it, I say yes."

Exercising in schools like this is happening all across the country.  Researchers say second and third graders who get an extra 90 minutes of physical activity per week do better on spelling, reading and math tests.  The American Heart Association recommends children get at least two and a half hours of physical education per week and 20 minutes of recess each day.