Reporting Holly Wagner
FARMINGTON, Minn. (WCCO) — A physical education teacher from Farmington is on his way to Washington D.C. Tuesday, lobbying to make gym class a bigger priority in Minnesota schools.
It’s part of National Speak Out Day, a day dedicated to supporting physical education.
Phy-Ed teacher Joe McCarthy has already stepped efforts to fight obesity and improve learning at Meadowview Elementary.
Before the students jump into reading, writing and math, they start their day by warming up with a few seated jumping jacks and balancing challenges.
“It’s kind of one of those little exercise programs that get you going in the morning, get you ready for learning,” says fifth grader Anika Mann.
The warm up is called “Jammin’ Minute” and every day fifth graders like Anika lead the rest of the school in a mini workout before class.
One of several ways McCarthy is working more activity into their day.
“Many schools and states are cutting PE,” he said. “That’s the worst thing you can do, and there’s no directing or instruction on how to be active and why it’s important to be active.”
McCarthy says research shows the more active students are the better they learn.
He started running clubs for kids at recess and afterschool. They keep track of how many miles they run, some have already hit 100!
McCarthy also started a program for students struggling in math and reading. It combines PE and classwork into a problem solving game.
After 12 weeks, he says the students dramatically improved, doubling their scores in the classroom.
“When the kids move, their brain is turned on. We bring them in here and have them move while they’re thinking,” he said. “That is the key — moving and thinking at the same time.”
Teacher Craig Evenson has noticed it makes a difference in their school work and their behavior.
“It’s created a culture of exercise that shows it’s not just something you do in the gym, it’s part of a healthy lifestyle,” says Evenson. “It’s very much intertwined with learning.”
McCarthy is on the state board of physical education. He says he’d like to see PE become a core subject at all Minnesota schools, and that’s part of what he plans to talk to lawmakers about this week in D.C.