First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new program to help school officials promote physical fitness in youth as part of her ongoing “Let’s Move” campaign.
The White House hosted a conference call with school board members and administrators on March 19 to introduce a new program, “Let’s Move: Active Schools,” funded by corporate sponsors, to guide local school districts to encourage physical activity. Up to 1,000 school districts will be awarded $1,000 grants to help kick-start their programs.
In addition to the grants, the program offers a free professional development program to show teachers how to integrate physical activities each day. It also gives technical assistance through calls and in-person visits, online resources such as curricula and toolkits, and communications tools. The National School Boards Association’s advocacy staff participated in on the call and noted that the program is voluntary for school boards.
“We know you are dealing with competing demands, and it feels like it is getting harder to find the time and money to keep kids active,” Obama said during the conference call. “This will give the tools and support to bring back physical activity in schools.”
Jill Wynns, a member of the San Francisco Unified Board of Education, spoke on the call about her school district’s investments in student wellness. The initiative began 10 years ago as a means to curb childhood obesity and began with a partnership with the city’s Board of Supervisors. From there, the district pulled together a Food and Fitness Advisory Committee made up of community members and city employees who worked to pass an initiative to fund an array of programs that encouraged physical activity.
“We found that it is not enough to tell teachers to do more physical activity. They need curriculum, professional development aligned with the PE standards and integrated into their instructional calendar,” said Wynns. “These efforts represent our local, community-initiated commitment to insuring the health of our students as well as a model for coordinating the resources of the community.”
School board member Mark B. Miller of the Centennial school district in Pennsylvania asked the First Lady’s advisor, Sam Kass, how the program could help school districts overcome obstacles such as space limitation and contractual agreements with staff.
Kass suggested a school district create a small wellness team that could look for ways to implement the plan, using the Active Schools resources. One of the most important aspects of the program is to find a champion within the school district who can spearhead the program, he added.
For more information, visit the program’s website: www.letsmoveschools.org.