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Phy ed teachers will share thoughts on exercise and achievement

Meadowview Elementary School phy ed teacher Joe McCarthy knows a thing or two about the benefits of students getting regular exercise. North Trail Elementary School phy ed teacher Jack Olwell has done extensive research on how exercise benefits brain function.

Together, the two instructors have lots to talk about at the Minnesota School Board Leadership Conference next week in Minneapolis.

They were asked to speak on the correlation between increased brain activity and exercise. They'll be joined by Farmington School Board chair Tera Lee and board members Melissa Sauser and Julie Singewald.

Their day includes two pieces, McCarthy said. From 11:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m., McCarthy will be at a booth at the convention with information about some of the programs he's implemented at Meadowview and how those students are improving both physically and academically. At 3:45 p.m., McCarthy, Olwell and the local board members will share Farmington's successes in those areas with more than 100 school board members from around the state.

"It's to the decision makers. We're hoping to show that physical education is important, this is why it's important and show the data on why there should be more phy ed during the day," McCarthy said.

At MVES, McCarthy has implemented programs to help increase student achievement. In one of his newer ones, Jammin' Minutes, McCarthy goes into a fifth grade classroom at the beginning of every week and teaches the students in that room a set of easy exercises for the week. The next few days, students from that class go to all of the other classrooms - one student per classroom - and teach the rest of the students those same moves.

Another new program is his Literacy Physical Education program, "LitPE," for short. Last fall, fifth grade students took a literacy test. From the results of that test, the 25 students who received the lowest scores were referred to McCarthy for participation in LitPE. McCarthy designed a special program for those students that embeds literacy comprehension and spelling into the exercise routine. Those students work with McCarthy every day.

"The idea is that they'll catch up, if not surpass the other fifth graders when they retake that test again in January," he said.

Talking points

McCarthy is no stranger to taking his programs on the road. He's spoken at a few teacher conventions over the past year, done a few displays at others. Having the added input from Olwell and the school board members is new, but McCarthy thinks it will add a lot to the presentation.

"Decreasing student obesity and increasing student achievement is the key," McCarthy said.

Because school districts are often pressed for funding, Sauser will talk about how districts can use fundraising can to make some of these programs work. Singewald will talk about the importance of incorporating a wellness plan into a school district's goals. Lee will pair up with Olwell to talk about the brain research aspect.

The willingness of board members to speak at the convention is encouraging to McCarthy. In doing so, he said, the board members are showing the rest of the state just how much value Farmington puts on exercise in education.

"This could really put Farmington on the map," he said. "We're very excited."

The Minnesota School Board Leadership Conference will be held Jan. 12 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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