First lady’s Let’s Move! initiative recognizes WV schools

Ryan Quinn , Staff Writer


First lady Michelle Obama’s school physical activity initiative has recognized West Virginia for being the first state in the nation to have all its public elementary schools sign up.

Josh Grant, who oversees health and physical education and physical activity programs for the West Virginia Department of Education, said the last of the state’s 441 elementary schools joined the Let’s Move! Active Schools program around last month. The program seeks to ensure K-12 students get 60 daily minutes of physical activity.

Grant said the state has required since 2014 at least 30 minutes of daily physical activity during the elementary school day, but noted the Let’s Move! goal is for at least 60 combined daily minutes before, during and after school. He’s promoted academic lessons that integrate exercise.

“We’re seeing research studies that are proving that when the kids are aerobically engaged or engaged in movement, their cognition increases and their academic performance increases and their discipline problems go down,” Grant said. “And it’s fun, and they’re enjoying it.”
Grant said that in signing up for the program, the schools aren’t expressing specific support for 60 minutes during the school day, but rather for active learning generally. He said signing up also helps schools assess how they’re providing physical activity and physical education and what they could do to improve.

He said the program also provides access to extra resources, including competitive grants that either give Let’s Move! Active Schools preference or can only go to Let’s Move! Active Schools.

Let’s Move! is a public-private partnership among multiple organizations, including the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition.

Grant said the President’s Council recognized West Virginia in 2014 as the first state in the nation to have at least one school in every county sign up, and the state education department urged all elementary schools to join at last year’s KidStrong Conference for Mountain State educators and other school workers. West Virginia was recognized for its success in that goal Wednesday, the second day of this year’s KidStrong Conference at the Charleston Civic Center.

Alliance for a Healthier Generation Chief Executive Officer Dr. Howell Wechsler presented the new recognition to State Schools Superintendent Michael Martirano and state Board of Education President Mike Green, and students from Cross Lanes’ Point Harmony Elementary demonstrated exercise activities.

Grant thanked classroom, physical education and health teachers — along with school nurses, school administrators and the state education department — for their support. When asked why he backed getting involved in this particular program, he noted it’s a national initiative with support from the government and well-respected partners that vet programs to ensure they’re research-based and high quality.

“It’s really the gold standard in this movement,” Grant said.

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