The fundamental aim of active schools is to offer school-aged children the motivation and the opportunity to adopt healthy and active lifestyles. The National Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommend that children and adolescents aged 6-17 years should have 60 minutes or more of physical activity each day. Schools are a key setting for physical activity opportunities. Nearly one million Minnesota students attend public or private schools each year. A typical school day lasts six to seven hours, making schools an ideal setting to provide physical activity opportunities for students. School-based physical activity can provide a substantial amount students’ daily physical activity, as well as engage them in opportunities to enhance their motor skills development, fitness, decision-making, cooperation and conflict management skills.
The Active Schools Minnesota Initiative was designed utilizing key components of the National Association for Sport and Physical Education Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP).
Active Schools Minnesota Initiative Components and Strategies
There are three components that form the framework for the Active Schools Minnesota Initiative: Physical Activity as Part of the School Day, Physical Activity Outside the School Day and School Transportation Related Physical Activity. Each component may be implemented by multiple strategy options as described below.
Component 1: Physical Activity as Part of the School Day
a. Quality Physical Education is the foundation of the model as it is the source where students gain the physical activity knowledge and skills that students can apply outside the class environment.
b. Active Classrooms provide the opportunities for physical activity breaks that are led by the classroom teacher.
c. Active Recess provides opportunities for safe and active play in a supervised environment at the elementary level. Drop In/Open Gym Opportunities provide opportunities for individualized activities for secondary students.
Component 2: School-Related Physical Activity Outside the School Day
a. Interscholastic Sports provide organized competitive physical activity opportunities in both team and individual sports.
b. Intramurals offer physical activity opportunities for a variety of options outside interscholastic sports for both team and individual activities.
c. Activity Clubs off the opportunity for non-competitive activities such as running or walking clubs.
Component 3: School Transportation Related Physical Activity
a. Safe Routes to School Programs provide the opportunity for a school and community to develop and expand an existing Safe Routes to School program that focuses on the five Es: Engineering, Education, Encouragement, Enforcement and Evaluation.
b. Walking School Bus or Biking Train provides opportunities for organized and sustained effort with adult supervision for students to walk or bike to school.
Professional development and technical assistance about the Active Schools Minnesota Initiative are available. Contact Mary Thissen-Milder, Active Schools Coordinator, Minnesota Department of Education, 651-582-8505, or Terri Swartout, Statewide Health Improvement Program Schools Coordinator, Minnesota Department of Education, 651-582-8377.