Active Schools

Students need daily opportunities to be physically active for their optimal health. The “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans,” issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that children and adolescents aged 6-17 years should have 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Regular physical activity in childhood and adolescence improves strength and endurance, helps build healthy bones and muscles, helps control weight, reduces anxiety and stress, increases self-esteem and may improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
In addition, physical activity is important for effective learning. “Health and Academic Achievement” from the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion identifies numerous research studies that address the link between increased academic performance and school-based physical activity, including physical education. Many academic indicators are also enhanced, such as mood, attendance and on-task behavior.
Schools are a key setting for physical activity opportunities. Nearly one million Minnesota students attend public or private schools each year. A typical school day lasts six to seven hours, making schools an ideal setting to provide physical activity opportunities for students. School-based physical activity can provide a substantial amount of students’ daily physical activity, as well as engage them in opportunities to enhance their motor skills development, fitness, decision-making, cooperation and conflict management skills.
What can schools do? Schools can play a significant role in providing opportunities for students to be physically active through implementing active schools strategies. The Active Schools model intentionally expands opportunities for physical activity during the school day through quality physical education, active classrooms and active recess, as well as opportunities to be physically active before and after school. Active Schools Minnesota is an initiative between the Minnesota Department of Education and the Minnesota Department of Health designed to assist schools in increasing physical activity both during and outside the school day.

Moving Matters: A School Implementation Toolkit” was designed as a foundational tool to describe this initiative. The Active Schools model follows the national Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP) model developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It identifies strategies in increasing physical activity opportunities during school through quality physical education, active classrooms and active recess (or drop-in time for older students), and out-of-school time physical activity opportunities, including Safe Routes to School. Also identified in the CSPAP model is the importance of staff, family and community engagement.
Quality physical education is foundational in an active schools initiative. Physical education is a curriculum taught by a qualified physical education teacher. Instruction is designed to promote physical fitness, to develop motor skills and to instill knowledge and understanding of rules, concepts and strategies for a lifetime approach to being physically active. Physical education standards help to maintain quality and provide a sequential approach to learning.
Active classrooms is the intentional act of embedding movement throughout the school day, within any classroom setting. Acknowledging that learning is enhanced when the brain is turned on, physical activity can be a component of any discipline or subject matter and is an important part of differentiated instruction. Oftentimes, these short bursts of physical activity allow individuals to energize and enhance their learning experience.
Active recess provides opportunities for all elementary students to be engaged in physical activity during the structured school day. Active recess takes into account many best practices including: a wide array of self-selecting activities to choose from, the opportunity for all students to participate and time and space for students to come back to the classroom ‘ready to learn.’ In addition, many secondary schools have found benefits in drop-in opportunities for physical activity that allow students the chance to increase movement throughout the school day.

*New! Active Schools Minnesota has released a new training video series for active recess. They cover the introduction to active recess, playground expectations, mapping the playground, and taking recess inside. Access the video series here.
Out-of-school time physical activity provides opportunities for activity for students outside of the regular school day. These activities can help provide students with opportunities to engage in physical activity and to further develop the knowledge, attitudes, motor skills, behavioral skills and confidence needed to adopt and maintain physically active lifestyles. Safe Routes to School provides students and families a more active alternative in transportation to and from schools. A comprehensive safe routes to school approach includes the five E's: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation.

  • Moving Matters - A School Implementation Toolkit - 1/28/14
  • Recess Moves! A Toolkit for Quality Recess - 12/11/13
    Quality recess can impact student learning and health. Schools that reap the benefits of recess are intentional about what happens on the playground. This toolkit contains best practice guidelines, research and tools to assist schools in creating a recess period that gets students active, supports their learning and reduces behavioral issues.