September 13, 2017
During the 2016-17 school year, Lower Merion Elementary Schools implemented a fifteen (15) minute physical activity (PA) period during the school day. The research and rationale for this PA period was explained in a paper that was published on the Lower Merion website in March of 2017. You can find that paper at this link: https://www.lmsd.org/about-lmsd/newsroom/article/~news-id/4659.
From February to June of last year, groups of parents and teachers met to discuss this PA period. At the conclusion of the school year, our elementary staff was surveyed to judge the effectiveness of this PA period and to look for suggestions and recommendations for implementation in this school year. The majority of staff surveyed supported this PA period and found that this additional physical activity for students improved classroom performance.
For this school year, the PA period at the elementary schools will continue with schedules developed in a manner that will best fit the grade level and school schedule. As this PA period is implemented, it is important to understand the implementation guidelines that have been released to teachers:
- Classroom teachers continue to have flexibility in the way this PA period is offered to students. To respect the difficulties of academic schedules, teachers have the flexibility to adapt the PA period to fit the needs of students and classroom schedules.
- Because of the disparity in outdoor play areas, the PA period will not look the same at every school or between grade levels at schools. Implementation of these PA periods, particularly outside play, is subject to weather conditions, outdoor field conditions and potential conflicts with other activities – particularly physical education classes. While the intent and goal is to have the PA period outside on any given day, these factors along with the classroom teacher's flexibility may impact the day to day implementation of this PA period.
- The PA period is not an extended recess. The purpose is to provide students an opportunity for a "brain break" during a rigorous school day. Because of the time limitations and space, PA periods will most often involve only an outside break under teacher supervision. Again, this will look different according to each school, grade level, and teacher preference. Last year, PA periods ranged from organized play supervised by teachers to classroom walks around the playground. Inside play incorporated programs like "Go Noodle" and even involved mindful practices.
The recommendation for this PA period was a collaborative effort between elementary staff and our school community. It is grounded in significant research that supports the connection between play/activity and learning. It is designed to allow for flexibility in implementation for classroom teachers and acknowledges the differences in facilities and schedules among each of our elementary schools. At its core, however, it recognizes that the addition of the period of activity in the elementary schedule benefits our students and has been shown, by research and our own anecdotal observations, to improve classroom performance.