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'Brain Breaks' exercise students' minds and bodies


Colorado

With nearly one in four Colorado children obese or overweight, some schools are developing healthy solutions. For the first time ever, Englewood Schools has included in their District wellness policy a clause that is aimed at boosting physical activity, stimulating minds and energizing students. As part of Tri-County Health Department's Communities Putting Prevention to Work grant, on June 7, 2011, Englewood School Board approved a revised wellness policy that includes a requirement for teachers at every grade level to integrate a teaching technique commonly known as "Brain Breaks" into classrooms.

Brain Breaks are one-minute mental and physical activities designed to re-energize and engage students in the classroom. They create focus, establish daily health habits and integrate functionality between the two hemispheres of the brain to facilitate learning. All Englewood Schools teachers will lead two one-minute breaks per hour in their classrooms.

"The most important thing about Brain Breaks is it takes place in every classroom," Caryn Tomasiewicz, CPPW grant coordinator for Englewood Schools said. "We're changing the mindset that physical activity is only for P.E. or recess. These are lifestyle habits that we need to practice everywhere on a daily basis."

One example of a Brain Break is to stand up, trace the alphabet in the air with a finger and count aloud with each letter. As students trace the letter A, they say the word "one." As they trace B, they say "two" and so on. By standing up, moving and counting aloud for that brief period, students activate their minds and bodies.

Brain Break exercises vary depending on the grade level. While kindergartners and first-graders might dance to music or roll on the floor, high school students might stretch or play a mind game with a partner.

In the past, some Englewood elementary school teachers used Brain Breaks, but it was uncommon in middle and high schools.

"Brain Breaks has been a movement in education for about five years, but it's mainly been focused on elementary age students," Tomasiewicz said. "The young kids who do Brain Breaks in elementary school are now expecting to see it in higher grade levels. We want to make sure we keep it going so they're just as energized and focused in the years ahead."

On March 5 the Englewood Schools' professional development hour was focused entirely on Brain Breaks--the first time a professional development hour has been dedicated to wellness in the District. Approximately 200 Englewood faculty members attended and learned the background of the teaching philosophy, heard success stories and practiced sample Brain Break exercises lead by Mindful Yoga Life for Kids and Englewood teaching staff.

To learn more visit www.tchd.org/cppw.htm.



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