Conestoga Elementary School

Gillette, WY

Fitness in the Classroom

Pop quiz: if a student is in school for 6 hours a day and takes a 3-minute fitness break 3 times an hour, how much cumulative physical activity will that student engage in over the course of a school week?

Students in Dave Hardesty’s class at Conestoga Elementary School in Gillette, WY, could tell you the answer: 3 X 3 X 6 X 5 = 270 minutes!

Rather than try to quell fidgety students throughout the school day, Mr. Hardesty embraces movement in his classroom.  In his class, students pause to exercise every 15-20 minutes. “The physical activity consists of one minute of cardio or strength training followed by a minute of stretching.  Movements range from 1-inch hops to pushups, disco dancing, jumping, chair lifts, tape hopping, planks, sit-ups, flutter kicks, and more. Activities are rotated throughout the day.”

Mr. Hardesty does not see his fitness regime as disruptive to academic time. Rather, it’s complementary. “In my classroom the response has been tremendous, from the students, parents, and community.  The students are excited that they are allowed to get up and move throughout the day.  The parents are glad their children are getting exercise and not becoming bored with school.  The community has given me two local awards for promoting fitness in my classroom while teaching all required standards.  The type of physical activity and frequency of it has created a buzz that I hope is embraced by more teachers in the school and district.” Through grant money Mr. Hardesty has been awarded for his fitness-focused classroom, he has been able to purchase 6 recumbent bikes outfitted with desktops. Students are eager to earn bike privileges where they can pedal while reading, studying, and taking tests.

In many schools, the struggle to find time for physical activity programming can cause it to fall by the wayside.  “Scheduling time for physical activities and disrupting daily schedule seems to be the biggest obstacles to advancing fitness goals,” says Mr. Hardesty. “Teachers can be hesitant to allow their students to leave the room, especially during cram sessions for high-stakes state assessments.  This is one reason why I incorporated physical activity into the daily routines of my classroom. The fitness breaks we take last about 2 to 3 minutes. After an hour students have exercised and stretched for 10 to 15 minutes.  A 3-minute fitness break helps instruction, increases student engagement, and promotes a healthy lifestyle. I would promote these positive effects to any teacher.”

Mr. Hardesty’s advice to educators looking to implement a similar program? “Model, Model, Model! If the teacher does not participate, the student will not participate.”