Friday, July 1, 2011

Eat, Exercise, Excel

The PE Methods for Classroom Teachers class I took this summer briefly mentioned a program called Eat, Exercise, and Excel, but just enough to catch my attention make me want to learn more. What follows is the research I found.

Anthony School in Levenworth, Kansas was the elementary school that no one wanted to go to. Teacher turnover rate was high, student grades were low, bullying was rampant, and everyone was unhappy. No teachers wanted to work there, and no parents wanted their children to go there. Until Janine Kempker took the position of principal and turned the school around with a new program she developed, Eat, Exercise, and Excel.

Main points of the program:
-Daily vitamins for the entire school population, students and staff
-Replacing recess with 40 minutes of structured PE
-PE/recess before lunch
-Lunch in the classrooms with polite socializing while learning manners and nutrition
-Teacher eats with students
-Constant access to water (bottles on desks)

It also seems that the school staff cracked down on discipline. The entire school, though happy and healthy, seems almost prison/boot camp-ish from the videos (links below), although I suppose it was a necessary measure to fight the bullying that once owned the playground (and probably every other part of the school).

The lunch aspect struck me as similar to the Montessori school I volunteered at a year ago and as possibly the most important aspect of the changes Anthony made. Eating is a time of vulnerability and sincere humility. Lunch time resembles an assembly line in most public schools I've seen--stand in line, receive plate, receive utensils, receive milk, sit along a long table, eat silently and quickly, line back up, exit, repeat for next class. Anthony has returned to a more natural lunch, calm, peaceable, and social. The teacher that eats with the class (on a daily basis, not as a reward), shows that she is human as well. She needs to eat to stay healthy, just as students do. Oh, and look, she's eating her vegetables! She's drinking her milk! Those things must not be so bad after all, maybe they're worth a taste. And there's no rush to eat quickly because the students have already had recess, and they can chat quietly with their friends as they eat. That results in less upset stomachs and more food eaten rather than thrown away in a rush to the playground.

The vitamins were an aspect I'd never considered before. What a great way to give students, especially low income as these are, a little extra advantage and nutrition. Available only to those with money or grants, but if you have it, use it!

And the test scores, every politician wants to know? Reading from 56% to 84% passing and math from 46% to 82% passing.

What a great program and a wonderful way to build a community. I wish every public school would/could implement something like it.

Eat Exercise and Excel program home page, unfortunately down.
Anthony School before and after, from the EEE website, somehow still available even though the main page is down
PDF explaining program from Kansas State Department of Education, Child Nutrition and Wellness website
29 minute video by Hugh Riordan, M.D.
5 and a half minute video from Fox News