Member Kudos: Rise and Shine, Longacre Elementary, Farmington Public Schools

2015 Education Excellence Award Recipient

DashBoard, May 27, 2015

Rise and Shine Jungle Gym
Rise and Shine Jungle Gym

The 20 recipients of the 2015 MASB/SET SEG Foundation Education Excellence Awards are some of the greatest examples of unique and innovative public school programs in the state of Michigan. Over the next few months, MASB will share the details of each program from their applications, presented in alphabetical order by district. This week we highlight the Rise and Shine program at Longacre Elementary in Farmington Public Schools.

Description: Rise and Shine is offered four days each week for 30 minutes before school at Longacre Elementary. Based upon the work of Harvard Medical School professor John Ratey with high school students in Naperville, Ill., and outlined in his book “Spark,” the program gives students in first through fourth grades an opportunity to experience vigorous exercise with their physical education teacher immediately before beginning the academic day.

Ratey’s research suggests exercise stimulates brain cell growth (neurogenesis). In his study, students who did before school exercise showed significant academic performance differences over control groups. With vigorous exercise as the goal, the sessions begin with simple tag games followed by a circuit that includes instruction in multidirectional speed and agility, and multiple stations encouraging functional strength, balance and coordination designed to be fun and compelling.

A cornerstone of Rise and Shine is the stewardship that the older students demonstrate in mentoring younger ones. Students frequently explain the rules for games and work with each other to teach new movements. Each session ends in a large group game designed to energize students before they head off to morning homeroom instruction. Now in its fifth year, the program averages 30 students participating every day.

Rise and Shine Training Station
Rise and Shine Training Station

Funding: Rise and Shine is conducted in the gym at Longacre. The program begins 40 minutes before the school day. Consequently, no additional funding has been necessary for support staff or facility expenses. All content is developed and delivered as a volunteer effort by physical education teacher Greg Thompson. Parent volunteers join in regularly to assist and participate in training circuits and games with students. Equipment used for the program has either been acquired for physical education instruction or purchased through collecting a voluntary donation of 50 cents from participants. All funds collected are used to provide an equipment budget for physical education. Over the past five years, kids’ donations have purchased jump rope sets, bosu trainers, aqua bags, agility ladder hoops and hopscotch mats, as well as playground supplies.

Rise and Shine Group
Rise and Shine Group

Outreach: Following district building closings in 2010-2011, physical education was reduced from twice each week to a three-day rotation. Rise and Shine was developed to offer our students access to a high-quality physical education experience four days each week. A voluntary 50-cent donation has enabled the program to be self-sustaining and provide equipment that is used in Rise and Shine, as well as regular physical education classes and on the playground. Since its inception, Greg Thompson has donated his time for developing program content and daily instruction. Thompson, and a regular cadre of adult volunteers, exercise and participate in games with the children. The program is anchored in this idea of adults “walking their talk” with regard to being healthy.

The program is unique in an old-fashioned way. Much like a nurturing collection of siblings from neighborhood families, children from first through fourth grades play games and perform exercises in mixed-age groups. Stewardship of their schoolmates is essential. Older students have to be gentle and patient just as younger students must emulate the listening and physical performance of older schoolmates. Students who may be experiencing social awkwardness or academic difficulty begin their day in a room full of schoolmates that are accepting and nurturing. Game instructions and individual exercises are regularly explained by children of all ages. Physical demonstration is a Rise and Shine cornerstone and students are encouraged to show their peers how to play games or perform specific skills. By example, our BOSU trainer, a hemispheric, inflated balancing tool, is often used by standing on it with the round-side down. Students new to the program are instructed by schoolmates in how to properly mount and dismount. We call this process “certifying” one another. This happens on a regular basis as Rise and Shine lessons are never repeated. When a new movement is introduced, students who can perform it are assigned the task of “certifying” schoolmates who don’t have it yet. In addition to the skill, children learn to communicate and care for each other. Interestingly, it is not always the older student doing the teaching. If a student has mastered a specific movement, they can certify anyone who is still working on it. This fosters an environment of open communication, discovery and confidence. 

Another element of our process is perseverance and problem solving. As part of our program’s instructional design, children are faced with exercises and games that are designed to create physical and mental puzzles. The goal is a room full of children that embrace puzzle solving and spend 30 minutes moving from one challenge to the next. Children frequently create adaptations to new movements. These solutions to physical challenges might make an exercise easier OR harder. We share both kinds of movements in order to find a fit for everyone in the room. Other puzzles might include keeping one’s self from getting physically disorganized by a schoolmate in a game environment. As part of our daily work on multidirectional speed and agility, we explore what the organized body feels like when stopping, accelerating and changing directions. In a wide variety of games, we find ways to keep ourselves organized while playfully attempting to disorganize the child we are playing against. Solving these kinds of physical and cognitive puzzles creates a joyful, neural blizzard that energizes the student right before heading to his or her homeroom class for the day’s instruction. 

Listening and engagement are essential pieces of our program. Our sessions are consistently well attended and the pace of instruction is brisk. There is little time for children to lose focus and subsequently, our “normal” is everyone using their eyes and ears to gather information quickly. This allows us to move through a 30-minute session with games at the beginning and end and a training circuit in the middle. Children move between strength circuit elements independently. They collaborate with peers or ask adults if they don’t know what to do. New students to Rise and Shine are quickly absorbed by the students’ strong sense of community. It can look chaotic at times, but it is organized chaos. Our goal is simple; we want everyone moving as much as possible. To do this, the children have to be engaged cognitively and physically. We accomplish this by expecting and encouraging kids to help each other. The result is a room full of kids who begin their school day in an exciting environment that encourages healthy lifestyle and school community while preparing their brain for a day of learning.

Results: For the past two years, 100 percent of students in Longacre have achieved district benchmarks for aerobic fitness, upper body strength and abdominal strength. In spring 2014, U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow recognized the students in Grade 2-4 at Longacre for achieving these benchmarks as an entire school for two consecutive years.  

In a school with a strong track record for student achievement in physical education, Rise and Shine participants are regularly among the highest performers on our fitness common assessments. In Physical Education, one of our school goals for the past several years has been to reduce “summer slide” in upper body strength (as measured by push-ups). After several years of high achievement during the school year followed by students arriving in the fall with low pre-test scores, we set a goal to come back to school as fit as possible. The graph below shows our three-year progress on the percentage of students achieving the district benchmark at pre-test. Grade levels are represented in parenthesis.

Rise and Shine Program 2015 Results Graph

The work of John Ratey would suggest vigorous exercise prior to the school day may relate positively to kids to academic achievement. Longacre is consistently among our district’s top two performers on MEAP and NWEA testing. The great variety of acivities and exercises at Rise and Shine definitely impacts the fitness performance of students who attend regularly. Like many things in education, we try to design and implement programs based upon the best information we have. We feel that Rise and Shine is an effective component of a public elementary school that embodies the best of what can be achieved when students are engaged, supported and pressed.

Program Coordinator: Greg Thompson, Physical Education Teacher,

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