Community Relations to Improve Physical Activity
Are you looking for new ways to improve physical activity in your school? Check out a few tips from Hastings School District Superintendent, Tim Collins here!
The ability to get community involvement, in any of your school programs, centers around clear and concise communication with a variety of stakeholders in the community. There has to be a feeling from the community that the school district wants, encourages, and welcomes the opportunity for organizations to get involved and have a voice on some of the activities that students, staff and families can participate in. This level of direct communication fosters and builds energy from many resources in the community; athletic boosters, foundations, county and medical resources, and businesses within the community.
These photos show some of the activities that took place during the months of June and July in the Hastings School District. This level of activity takes place in many schools throughout the State of Minnesota. We have outstanding participation due to the good fortune of having many of our teachers, coaches, and counselors directly involved with the youth of our communities during the summer months. When our parents and students have a positive experience within our facilities, and with many of our staff members, the community then wants to support even more physically active programs in our schools. The Booster Clubs, specifically, reach out and want to make financial contributions to strengthen our workout center and cardiovascular initiatives. The Athletic Boosters understand that we want to host youth; basketball, volleyball, hockey, soccer and wrestling tournaments. As a school district we attempt to keep the costs as low as possible for these organizations because we understand that for every dollar they raise, those dollars go right back into our athletic programs and workout equipment!
That same sense of welcoming outside organizations into our schools goes beyond athletics. Both Dakota County Health and Human Services and the Local Y have been instrumental in administering health related services to all of our employees. This collaborative is through health screening initiatives or flu shots, available right on site, to free trial memberships with our local Y partner. A wellness program for our employees is always stronger and more effective when we can bring the services right to our employees on school grounds.
The Hastings Public Schools Foundation is an example of having the ability to bring foundation board members, on site, to help deliver grants to our teaching staff. When those board members saw our zero hour physical education classes taking place at 7:00 a.m. they recognized the importance of awarding educational grants to our Health and PE classes as well. Since that time, our PE classes have benefited by receiving heart rate monitors and iPads to increase personal health and fitness. In future years, the Foundation will be a strong supporter of other initiatives related to health and fitness at all of our educational sites.
Our buildings are open from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. almost every day of the year. We want organizations and community members coming into our buildings. If individuals, and organizations, feel that we have gone out of our way to welcome them, then they will financially support our programs for years to come.
Zero Hour Physical Education
Five years ago, the coaches, physical education teachers and administration, pulled together to discuss what improvements could be made for our students at Hastings High School. An anonymous survey was conducted and it was very obvious that the students wanted a challenging, and comprehensive workout, which challenged them physically, mentally and emotionally. It was at that point that SPARQ was created and students have to be ready to go by 7:00 AM. Think back to the time when you were seventeen years old – would you want to leave home by 6:15 AM in order to get to the high school to work out by 7:00 AM?
The SPARQ course uses diverse training components to improve a student’s speed, power, agility, reaction and quickness. The course is directed towards students who want to take fitness to the next level. Students can work out for more than 45 minutes as the class has a start time of 7:00 AM. The student is then able to shower and have a quick breakfast prior to the start of their second hour class. The class is offered three mornings a week which then allows the student to sleep in, or have extra study time, the other two days out of the week.
Our student athletes gravitate towards this course because it allows them to have an intense workout and they can work on specific skills during their athletic team practice at the end of the day. The rest of our student body is drawn to the class because of the engaging teaching staff, the motivation, and bonding that occurs at the very start of the day. One of our students has lost over 100 pounds during the four semesters of participation. There are many students now gravitating towards SPARQ because they hear other students talking about it. When you participate in SPARQ you become part of the SPARQ team. There is no question, that just like other teams, there is a bond that occurs when you sweat, fail, succeed, push yourself and others around you to reach new goals. The program helps to improve your mind set, inner strength and motivation as you begin each and every day.
The number of students signing up for SPARQ continues to increase annually. We now have an all-female SPARQ class and they are reaching an intensity level that we could not have seen before. All students in the program are challenged, at a high level of intensity, by our instructors. There are many times that a student will be told what they need to hear rather than being told what they want to hear. There is no question that the students are responding to the challenge.
A program, like SPARQ, is successful because of the high energy and positive staff engaging the students! It also takes high school administration, and coaches, who support the concept and are willing to encourage students to participate. When you have the above ingredients, it makes a prefect recipe for success.
Our SPARQ students come out of the program, on a daily basis, with high energy and a positive approach to start the day. Their self-esteem is improved and they understand the concept that you will never have any regrets if you challenge yourself and put in a lot of hard work. All of the students fully understand that pushing yourself mentally, and physically, is something that they need to do for the rest of their lives.
Simply put, this program should be replicated in every high school across America.