Twenty-one Colorado school districts recently won $1.4 million worth of grants from Kaiser Permanente Colorado to get kids—and in some cases staff—moving more.
The grants, which are part of Kaiser’s national “Thriving Schools” initiative, range from $5,000-$200,000 and represent the organization’s first direct-to-district grant program. Several of the grants will fund training to help teachers incorporate more physical activity into the school day or change the way physical education is delivered.
About half of the grants target secondary students. For example, the Poudre School District will promote biking to school among high-schoolers, Weld County District 6 will create an after-school soccer program for middle school students and the Cripple Creek-Victor district will institute structured physical activity at lunch for seventh to 12th-graders.
Corina Lindley, senior manager of healthy communities and schools for Kaiser Permanente Colorado, said she is excited about the number of proposals focusing on middle and high school students, since movement initiatives tend to occur more at the elementary level.
Theresa Myers, director of communications in Weld County District 6, said the focus on middle school was intentional.
“That’s an age group that number one we want to keep engaged in school and we know that sports are in an important part of that.”
She also noted that soccer is a much-loved sport among the district’s middle-schoolers, 37 percent of whom are immigrants to the United States. While one of the district’s four middle schools operates an after-school program called “Soccer Without Borders,” the $100,000 Kaiser grant will expand the concept to the other schools, creating more teams and intra-district matches.
In addition to soccer, Weld 6 will also use the grant to create after-school running clubs at some elementary schools and provide stipends to various staff members to serve as school wellness coordinators.
The St. Vrain school district will use its $100,000 grant to expand Red Hawk Elementary School’s nationally recognized “All School Movement Program” to seven other district schools, including one middle school and one high school. Red Hawk students start the day with 20 minutes of physical activity such as jump-roping, trail running or brisk walking. In addition, teachers incorporate an additional 10-15 minutes of physical activity into their classroom schedules through the rest of the day.
The district kicked off the grant-funded movement expansion over the weekend with a training for 25 teachers who will serve as “champions” at their respective schools. An additional 50 teachers will be trained as movement champions next fall and winter. In addition to participating in the training, champions will meet in groups of five with a Red Hawk staff member each month to discuss issues and challenges arising from school movement efforts.
Red Hawk Principal Cyrus Weinberger said the teacher champions, who receive stipends as part of the project, will be expected to incorporate 30 minutes of physical activity into the day, separate from recess and P.E. The hope is that champions will spread the word to colleagues who are not part of the grant project and momentum will build for schoolwide adoption.
“The idea is that as those teachers with movement [in their classrooms] are experiencing good results that it’ll become more and more contagious,” said Weinberger.