Category Archives: Partnerships

Active Bodies = Healthier Future

By Jennifer Krystopowicz June 20th, 2014 11:00 AM

It’s a Tuesday morning and 30 students, all wearing bright blue and yellow tee shirts, are running, squatting, planking, jumping, and laughing to the beat of music. The time is only 8:00 am, but these students have already done more physical activity than most adults do in a day. No, this is not their physical education class. This is a typical morning at Tyler Elementary, where students in the BOK’s program come to participate in physical exercise through fun games and activities before the start of the school day.

According to their website, BOKS (Build Our Kids’ Success) is a free before-school physical activity program initiated by Reebok and the Reebok Foundation. BOKS was created by a group of moms after reading Dr. John Ratey’s book Spark, which states that, “exercise is the single most powerful tool that we have to optimize the function of our brains.” The goal of the BOKS program is to enhance academic performance and the overall health of kids through physical activity. The program, run by moms, dads, P.E. teachers and all other types of volunteers in local communities, is simple to implement. BOKS currently operates in close to 1,000 schools around the world.

I learned about the program through a friend, Ewunike, who is the regional director of BOKS for the DC area.  As soon as I heard about it, my first thought was “I need to get this program started at Tyler.”  Not only would it bring health and wellness to the school, but it would give me an opportunity to participate in something that I am a fanatic about outside of teaching: physical activity.  After Ewuinke gave a presentation to my principal, Tyler was signed up and ready to start our first session in the fall.  As the lead trainer, I attended a training day where I received the full curriculum of BOKS, including the daily schedule, skills, and activities to follow for the entire year.

Tyler now runs BOKS on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 7:45-8:30am for 12 weeks in the fall and 12 weeks in the spring.  The program is open to all students, K-5. Each day begins with a warm up (locomotor movement or specific stretch), followed by a quick running game or exercise, then review of the skill of the week with practice time, followed by a fun game, and ending with a nutritional take away. Skills of the week include planks, burpees, donkey kicks, metric run, jumping jacks, and other traditional movements that are essential to healthy living.

Students who participate in BOKS not only have a blast playing fun games – they also get the recommended daily dose of exercise.  My students all love the games that BOKS has created, and they remain energized throughout the entire session. Most importantly, many teachers who work with students in the BOKS program have told me that they have noticed a difference in their students. On BOKS days, these students perform better because they are more focused and ready to learn. It has been so rewarding for me to see how bringing BOKS in my local school has made a direct impact on the students’ health, nutrition, and learning.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of being recognized by BOKS as a “Champion of Change” for my commitment to creating a healthier future for children at Tyler. Along with 15 lead trainers from across the country, BOKS celebrated us for our efforts at BOKS Active Kids Day at the Reebok Headquarters in Massachusetts.

BOKS Award

For more information about BOKS and to find out how schools can get involved, visit www.bokskids.org, the BOKS Facebook page or follow BOKS on Twitter @bokskids.

Teaching is a Three-Way Street

By Earl Jones January 30th 2014 5:20 PM

One of the perks of my teaching career is that I get to travel for work. This travel doesn’t take me to other countries, or even other cities. Rather, my work takes me around my school community, visiting the families of my students.

There is no teacher who would deny that building personal relationships with students and families contributes to student achievement. Fortunately, my school, Bancroft Elementary, partners with the Flamboyan Foundation. Founded in 2006, the Flamboyan Foundation aims to increase educational outcomes of public school students by providing teachers with training, resources, and assistance related to family engagement.  One key component of the partnership is that all teachers must conduct home visits. During the summer and fall months, teachers visit the homes of their students to initiate and strengthen relationships with parents.

As a participant in this program, it is truly enlightening for me to be able to talk with families and students during these home visits. I discuss the hopes and dreams of my students and expectations for the school year, such as classroom participation and homework. But, most importantly, I get to know families and students on a personal level.

Through these home visits, I’ve started to understand what influences the character of my students. Students have shown off their trophies and pets. Immigrant parents have told me stories from their childhood in their home countries. Families have even shared with me their hobbies and interests. Parents have also shared disheartening news such as past homelessness, divorce, family death, and illnesses that provide insight into a student’s emotional state.

Making this teacher-family connection allows students to feel a sense of security in the classroom, allowing them to take more risks when learning. It permits teachers to cater to students not just academically, but socially, mentally, and emotionally. It goes without saying that conducting these home visits has opened a three-way street among student, family, and teacher in my classroom.

Earl Jones is a fourth grade teacher at Bancroft Elementary School.

School Partnerships: Strengthening in Two Ways

By Amanda Rogers January 23rd, 2014 6:00 PM

Very often in teaching, my colleagues and I find that we are attached to our routines, keeping the train on its tracks, moving full steam ahead.

However, it doesn’t have to be that way. By stepping outside of the routine and seeking out educational partnerships, we can give students authentic experiences with people outside of the educational world and see an enriched learning environment in the classroom.

Amanda Rogers Image 1 In my experience, there are two kinds of partnerships that teachers can seek out to enhance their classrooms and inspire their students; partnerships that provide a service and partnerships that provide a product. Partnerships that provide a service can include activties like therapeutic yoga classes, musical performances by local artists, and science programs with mobile laboratories. Product-oriented partnerships can bring school supplies, modern technology, and healthier local food to schools.

This past summer, when I was researching what kind of service partnership I wanted to bring to Langley Elementary, I knew I wanted it to be mental health oriented. In an age where we are constantly measuring student achievement via test taking, I wanted my students to be able to feel successful before the pencil ever marked their tests. I wanted them to feel confident in controlling their emotions, reflecting on their lives, and using their minds and bodies in a way that the regular education classroom was not teaching them. This is where the non-profit organization YoKid came in.

YoKid is a non-profit that provides instruction in yoga for kids and teens in the DMV area. It was created to help kids and teens confront the complex challenges of living in an urban environment by increasing their self-awareness, concentration levels, and physical activity through yoga.

Fast forward to this October, when YoKid was part of my school’s schedule. Along with ten other students at Langley, I lay on my yoga mat and marveled at how engaged my students were. I could see immediately how beneficial this partnership was going to be for my student’s wellbeing and the overall building environment. The yoga instructor was professional, motivational, and gave the students exposure to an activity that some of them had never even heard of. As Richard Karpel, the President and CEO of Yoga Alliance recently said, “It’s hardly surprising, then, that yoga-in-school programs like the Washington, D.C.-based YoKid.org are widely praised by both teachers and parents.” (Karpel, Richard. “Exercise or Religion? Yoga is for Everyone.” USA Today 20 May 2013)

When it comes to service-related partnerships, I have the most experience with Donors Choose. DonorsChoose.org is an online charity that connects classrooms to the general public who want to help students in need. Public school teachers post classroom project requests on the web site, and individuals can give any amount to the project that they choose to support. When a project reaches its funding goal, Donors Choose ships the materials to the school.

As an art teacher, I am always scrounging for supplies for my students to use. Donors Choose helped my classroom in immeasurable ways, providing my students with simple supplies such as markers, crayons, and paper to more complex materials like clay and digital cameras. Donors Choose is a wonderful partnership for all teachers in need of supplies, no matter what the subject. A well-stocked classroom directly links to student achievement and student engagement.

Amanda Rogers Image 2

So, consider stepping outside of your well-oiled routine to provide your students with a partnership related to your teaching field. Whether it is a hands-on experience like a science assembly or a motivational speech from a local athlete turned professional, find what inspires your students and partner with that cause.

Follow Amanda Rogers on Twitter: @NEcityart

Amanda Rogers teaches visual arts at Langley Elementary School in Washington, D.C.