Schools on the Move Enhances Health at Schools

A student playing badminton in class

Forty-three schools in Western Pennsylvania will receive grants from the Healthy Lifestyle Institute to support creative uses for physical activity programs that will get students more active.

March 01, 2020

The next time a first-grader at Harry W. Lockley Early Learning Center in New Castle, Pa. is about to have a meltdown in the classroom, teachers can try a different approach. They can send the student to an obstacle course called the “peaceful pathway.” 

The specially designed course, complete with tunnels to crawl through, mats to roll across, and barriers to climb, will be located in the school’s gymnasium when it is built later this year, said Nick Marmo, a health and physical activity teacher for grades K-2. Based on the school’s classroom management technique of conscious discipline, the obstacle course is meant to support the student’s emotional wellness, he said. 

“Conscious discipline lets kids go to safe spaces to avoid a meltdown. We wanted to make an area where kids could go to move around, activate their muscle groups, and refocus their energies,” said Marmo.

The school district received funding for the obstacle course through the Schools on the Move initiative of the Healthy Lifestyle Institute at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. The program provides grants of between $500 to $2,500 to support innovative school-based health and well-being initiatives. 

“It’s been amazing to see what creative teachers are able to do with just a little funding,” said John Jakicic, the director of the Healthy Lifestyle Institute and a Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

In total, $40,000 in funding was awarded to 43 school districts in Southwestern Pennsylvania through Schools on the Move. The grants will support a range of uses, including the purchase of gym equipment, curriculum development, and the creation of new physical activity programming.

Other Grant-Funded Projects:

  • The Washington School District in Washington, Pa. will use its grant funding to purchase new gym equipment for high school students with physical disabilities, said Kellie Ryburn, a physical education and health teacher. The equipment will include oversized volleyballs and larger tennis equipment that is easier to use.

    “This grant helps the school a lot. As soon as we have something new, our students are all over it. They’re super excited,” said Ryburn.
  • The A.W. Beattie Career Center in Allison Park, Pa. plans to construct a jogging path/walking trail with activity stations, located around the school’s campus, said Tad Thayer, a science integration instructor at the school. Not only will the trail be used by the school’s students and faculty, it will be partially constructed by students in the school’s carpentry program.

    “The idea is to promote students’ physical activity to improve their social-emotional health. A lot of them don’t spend much time outdoors out of school,” said Thayer.
  • The Butler Area School District will use its grant to purchase the Second Step Program curriculum for all of its kindergarten students, said district Superintendent Brian White. The school district plans to eventually offer the curriculum across all grade levels. The action was taken in response to a state survey where its students self-reported rates of depression higher than the state average, said White. 

    “The goal is to support the whole child’s health, to help them grow not just physically but also emotionally,” said White. He earned both his Master of Education (MEd) and Doctor of Education (EdD) from the Pitt School of Education and as also recognized in 2015 with the school’s Distinguished PReK-12 Educator Award. 
  • The Sharpsville Area School District in Mercer County, Pa. plans to purchase two sets of 9 Square in the Air for its middle school students, said Jayne Kornbau, a health and physical activity teacher. The game is a cross between volleyball and four square. Kornbau already has plans to create a tournament for students, complete with a trophy for the winners.

    “I was very grateful to receive the grant. My funding for gym equipment goes so fast, and I would never have had enough to afford this without the grant,” said Kornbau. 

Learn More

Information on all 43 schools that received funding through the Schools On the Move program can be found at Select the Schools on the Move tab to learn more. 

Pitt Education offers Health, Physical Activity, and Exercise programs at the undergraduate, master’s, and doctoral level. Visit the website to learn more. 

About the Faculty

John M. Jakicic

John M. Jakicic

John Jakicic is a Distinguished Professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Education. He is the director of the school's Healthy Lifestyle Institute and has lead academic programs in the areas of health, physical activity, and exercise across the school. A prolific researcher, he has led numerous research studies that have examined the health impacts of various interventions related to healthy lifestyle choices.

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