Recently, students in Chicago Public Schools celebrated being active and earning the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award. More than 2,000 Chicago students took on the challenge with 60 minutes of daily physical activity for six weeks.
One enthusiastic educator, P.E. teacher Jill White, went above and beyond in helping her students meet the challenge by coordinating a flash mob dance to Beyonce’s "Move Your Body," a song the pop star released as part of First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move campaign to encourage children to be active!
"I was so excited because it was something that was structured! A child that can’t do two push-ups can participate. It gave us an opening to talk about ‘what physical activity really is,’ ‘how much do we need,’ ‘what is a healthy lunch’, ‘what is a healthy breakfast.’"
Cornell McClellan and Robert A. Black physical education instructor Jill White
With more than 20 years of experience, White was delighted to see her students accomplish something as a school. She said one of the most rewarding parts of her job is seeing students develop throughout the years.
"It’s great to see those kids from kindergarten and follow them all the way up to eighth grade." No stranger to teamwork, White keeps busy by coaching boys and girls third and fourth grade tennis and overseeing junior varsity and varsity cheer squads.
"Physical education is very important. We’re teaching them," White added. "There are so many benefits that spill over into the classroom."
White explained that physical activity contributes significantly to a child’s educational experience. She shared an essay that one of her students wrote, in which the student said "I like PE because Ms. White taught me how to follow the steps and I finally made a basket."
"They learn all sorts of things that aren’t necessarily physical education," she said. "If you follow the steps you can be successful. If you work hard at something, you’re going to be better."
White shared other ways physical activity supports other parts of a student’s education: "In kindergarten, we learn about quarter-turns. Well, a kid that jumps quarter-turns will remember what a quarter is when he or she get to math class. So they’re using their bodies to solidify what they learn in the classroom."
The instructor also shared her vision of fitness. "It’s not whether you’re fat or skinny, tall or short; does your body do what you want it to do? That’s how I define fitness; can you get up and run down the street? Can you play the games you want to play without getting out of breath? So that’s my goal, to get kids to work toward that and to feel good about their bodies and what they can do."
Research demonstrates how physical education and physical activity boost students' readiness to learn and succeed academically. Students build social skills such as teamwork and self-esteem, learn about health and development, and boost fitness and overall health.
Kudos to Jill White on championing wellness! Congratulations to Robert A. Black Magnet School and all of the Chicago Public Schools on completing the PALA Challenge!
For more information about Chicago’s efforts to elevate school fitness, check out Go for the Gold.