Ralston Public Schools Introduces New Fitness Program

November 15th, 2016 by Live Well Omaha Kids

This blog post was originally shared on the Live Well Omaha Kids website on November 15, 2016. 

Live Well Omaha Kids recommends that kids get one or more hour of physical activity a day, so we were excited to hear that Ralston Schools Foundation Board President Jeff Zdan brought a cool program promoting movement and a healthy lifestyle to Meadows Elementary.

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14444599_1225772430798876_340167922692806341_o When Ralston Schools Foundation Board President Jeff Zdan first learned about the ‘Build Our Kids’ Success’, or ‘BOKS’ program at a National School Board Conference, he knew he had to bring it to Ralston. Having a passion for fitness himself, he was inspired to instill the skills, lessons, and dedication that a healthy lifestyle can provide, to the students of RPS.

BOKS is a physical fitness and exercise program designed to get kids moving, build self-esteem, and get kids engaged in activity. With the support of Zdan and other administrators, BOKS was introduced in September at Meadows Elementary in Ralston. The school has most of the equipment necessary to run BOKS, so there was very little investment to get started. Zdan volunteers his time to lead BOKS twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and there are four teachers who also volunteer their time and lead class on Fridays. Ralston High School students have also started volunteering. They help with students who need more one-on-one attention or assistance in the activities.

The BOKS curriculum is made up of two 12-week programs, one for each semester. There is a skill highlighted each week such as planks, sit-ups, or squats. The focus is keeping the kids active, moving, and engaged. Each day, the program starts with active play utilizing balls, jump ropes or other equipment. They then sit down to talk about the skill of the week and the plan for that day. Next is a warm-up and a run or relay race. Games, obstacle courses or work stations then help tie in the skill of the week. After more games like capture the flag, sharks and minnows, or tag, the kids stretch, work on balance and discuss healthy eating.

“Exercise early in the morning can help students activate their bodies for learning, burn extra energy which might become a distraction in class, raise their physical fitness level, provide the mental and emotional benefits of exercise, and most importantly, learn to have fun with physical fitness,” said Zdan.

“Because the class occurs before school starts, we can make noise without interrupting learning. Kids need to move and make noise; that always leads to fun!”

BOKS is free to all students at Meadows and currently there are 36 students participating. “Because the class involves Kindergarten through 6th grade students,” said Zdan, “the participants can interact in ways they rarely can during the school day.  We have several siblings who come together and best friends who might be in different classes. It also provides the younger students someone to look up to and the older students a chance to mentor the younger participants.”

14444824_1225772194132233_2208208041945076738_oEvery day is a new adventure at BOKS. Running, Push-ups, Burpees, Jumps, Walking lunges and Donkey kicks are mixed in with games, relays and fun to keep kids active. “One day I put on a chicken suit and we danced our tail feathers off,” said Zdan. “We danced to YMCA, The Chicken Dance, Shout, and other active songs you might find at a wedding reception.”

Teamwork and other life skills are also built into activities. Relay races are engaging and encourage students to participate and work as a team. When students come into the school, they are given a different colored mark on their hands with skin crayons. The color identifies their team for the day so they are always on different teams and are encouraged to work and interact with everyone. Some of the best feedback has been the older students taking it upon themselves to help the younger kids, encouraging them, directing them, and forming meaningful relationships. Some younger K-2 students have become very active in their participation and have not been afraid to try new things, thanks to the confidence they have built and the encouragement they have received from their peers.

Student progress is another important piece of BOKS. There is a timed run at the beginning and at the end of the semester to show kids their progress in cardiovascular health. Improvement in their understanding of fitness is also recognized in BOKS. A “BOKS Kid of the Week” is selected to highlight students who are working hard, actively engaged, helping others, and showing good character.

By engaging kids in fitness, we help them realize the physical and mental benefits, and give them the skills and knowledge they need to live healthier, more productive lives. This can impact their entire lifetime, from Kindergarten to adulthood. “Physical fitness can be fun, and it should be fun,” says Zdan. “The program helps to introduce skills and hopefully a passion the students can use in their life to build upon their own personal health and wellness.”

Top 5 Benefits of BOKS

  • Gets Kids Moving in the Morning
  • Fosters Motor Skills
  • Increases Student Energy
  • Encourages Exercise
  • Builds Confidence

Live Well Omaha Kids encourages parents and staff to get involved and advocate for healthier school policies. This Smart Start guide can help you get started! Do you have a healthy initiative happening at your school? We want to hear about it! Contact Sheena at sheena@livewellomaha.org.

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