U-46, Barrington students aim for 5 million active minutes
By next month, elementary school students in Elgin- and Barrington-area schools will have logged 5 million minutes of physical activity in their classrooms this year through an online program.
GoNoodle, an online suite of interactive movement videos and games, gets kids active and learning at their desks with three- to five-minute moderate to vigorous movement breaks aimed at improving student health, behavior, focus and academic performance.
More than 15,000 students in Elgin Area School District U-46 and Barrington Unit District 220 schools have been getting an average of nine minutes of additional physical activity per day with these "brain breaks" during classes. The program is available to roughly 26,000 students in more than 50 schools at both districts, but not every classroom is active just yet, officials said.
"The kids are begging for it," said Tracey Jakaitis, U-46 physical education, health and wellness coordinator. "They love it. And the teachers have found very creative ways to use it for transitions between subject matters, some teachers use it for incentives. It has been a districtwide effort ... everybody really just banding together to figure out the best way to embed GoNoodle, while not losing instructional time."
Teachers have access to more than 100 online physical activity breaks that tie movement and core subjects together, incorporating grade-specific math, English spelling and vocabulary. GoNoodle videos can be instructional, involve singing and dancing, counting, body spelling, jogging in place and yoga, and tackle grade-level specific questions.
"I see a real increase in motivation," said Katie Clifford, first-grade teacher at Roslyn Road Elementary School in Barrington. "They look forward to the break to kind of get up and move, and be a little silly. They are able to calm down and refocus after every session. There's activities to kind of amp kids up and get them going, and then there's also activities to calm them down. I just see real engagement and motivation to stay focused and get the work done."
More than 500,000 teachers use GoNoodle in their classrooms and more than 1 million families have signed up to play GoNoodle at home, according to officials at the Tennessee-based company launched in 2013.
GoNoodle is used by one in three elementary teachers in the United States. The platform is accessible online, via Apple TV, and soon through an app, and is used by 10 million children each month in all 50 states and 168 countries, officials said.
Nearly 1,000 U‐46 and Barrington 220 teachers are among the first in the region to access the GoNoodle Plus educational program this school year thanks to a $43,000 grant from AMITA Health Alexian Women's and Children's Hospital in Hoffman Estates. As more teachers come online, the program is expected to cost $55,000 yearly, which AMITA has committed to provide.
"We've had great engagement in this (suburban) market in this short period of time," said David Hanzlik, GoNoodle regional director. "The teachers and districts really understand the importance of getting the kids up and moving."
Studies have shown giving students mini breaks throughout the school day reduces behavioral problems as they burn off energy with exercise or calm their nerves through activities.
Even 10 minutes of physical activity can improve cognitive function, Hanzlik said, citing a study by Iowa State University's Department of Kinesiology.
Another independent study found students who played GoNoodle's Mega Math Marathon over the course of a school year showed a 50 percent greater improvement in math scores over those students who did not play it, he added.
Encouraged by the program's success, AMITA executives plan to expand access to more schools -- in the Bolingbrook area -- where income disparities might prevent students from being able to eat healthy and exercise. GoNoodle's interactive learning videos help students achieve both goals and prevent childhood obesity, said Marcy Traxler, AMITA Health vice president of business development.
"We don't want to shame kids about their weight," Traxler said. "We want to emphasize increasing activity and choosing better foods and what they are putting into their bodies. Schools are probably one of the best places to work with hard-wiring behaviors. They have the kids all day and they can build it into the curriculum. It's really such a low-cost way to scale up this obesity intervention."