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In the News: Fayette County elementary school students getting more activity breaks as part of UK research project

From the Herald-Leader:

It’s 1:45 p.m. in teacher Amber McClellan’s class at Garden Springs Elementary School, less than an hour before dismissal.

It’s that time of the afternoon, said third-grader Avery Pitts, when “my brain needs a break from working.”

With University of Kentucky researchers in the classroom taking notes and the students wearing small pedometers, McClellan turns on an interactive video that gets the children to their feet, dancing, stretching, marching in place and responding to the video in unison. The video is included in an activities system called GoNoodle.

Alicia Fedewa, a UK associate professor in the College of Education’s Department of Educational, School and Counseling Psychology, said it’s part of a study to determine whether physical activity breaks in the classroom result in higher test scores and calmer behavior.

In addition to Garden Springs, the study is taking place at Ashland, Meadowthorpe and Dixie Magnet for third-, fourth- and fifth-grade students, Fedewa said.

As part of the study, some teachers tie the movement to instruction. In other classrooms, children simply take aerobic activity breaks. In both cases, teachers take morning and afternoon breaks for a total of 10 extra minutes of physical activity a day.

UK student researchers are looking to see, in part, if academic achievement in math and literacy increases. Fedewa said in an article on the school district website that the hypothesis is that the more physical activity breaks that occur in the classroom, the higher the test scores.

UK student Tara Kelly said she’s watching before and after the activity to see if students comply with the teacher’s requests.

Most of the time kids will be calm afterward, Kelly said.

Third-grader Taylor Pence said she liked exercising for the study because “you get to get up and move around instead of waiting for recess.”

Student Nolan Piepiora said the exercise “gets me excited and ready to learn.”

“I love how we move a lot and get our wiggles out,” Nolan said.

“They get tired of sitting,” said McClellan. The exercise “gets their brain moving.”

Afterward, she said, “I see that they are more focused and ready to pay attention to the actual lesson instead of getting distracted.”

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears.