Let’s Move! Active Schools Initiative Hits the Schoolyard!

Yesterday, some 6,500 students in Chicago were moving, shaking, jumping and dancing in what may have been the largest coordinated “recess” in history. Why the sudden burst of activity? It has a lot to do with one of the enthusiastic recess leaders: First Lady Michelle Obama.

Active Kids Perform BetterTo mark the third anniversary of her Let’s Move! campaign to end childhood obesity within a generation, Obama is reaching out to schools. Yesterday, the First Lady announced the launch of Let’s Move! Active Schools (LMAS), an new collaboration with the private sector to increase physical education in public schools across the country. A $70 million program, the LMAS website provides simple steps and tools to help schools create active environments where students get 60 minutes of physical activity before, during and after the school day.

Students spend the majority of their day in or at school, and yet physical education programs around the country are feeling the strain of ever tightening school budgets—just as the country is finally starting to see some signs of progress in fighting the childhood obesity epidemic. Currently, only 20% of school districts require daily recess and only one in three kids is active every day.

“We can’t use tough economic times as an excuse,” Secretary Arne Duncan said on the Dr. Oz show that aired yesterday. “We have to get past this false dichotomy. Some people think, well, we can spend time helping kids be successful academically or we can help them play and be active physically. And that’s a false choice. Those two things reinforce each other.”

At the Chicago event, the First Lady and Duncan joined government officials, business leaders, athletes and Olympians in calling on school staff, families and communities to work together to reach an ambitious goal of engaging 50,000 schools in the Let’s Move! Active Schools program over the next five years. “Helping students become more active physically also helps students become more successful academically,” said Duncan.

For its part, the U.S. Department of Education will continue to support both physical and nutrition education in schools by realigning its $80 million Carol M. White Physical Education Program (“PEP”) to prioritize schools most in need and support applicants with plans to maximize their reach by building cost effective, sustainable programs. Applications for the next round of PEP grants are being accepted until April 13, 2013. For the next round of funding, ED is encouraging alignment with both the Partnership for a Healthier America’s new design filters for effective physical activity programs and the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition’s new Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP).

Whether you are a parent, teacher, school administrator or community member, get involved in making your school an active one and visit LetsMoveSchools.org to determine how your school is doing, what you can do to help, and what resources Let’s Move! Active Schools can offer to assist you.

Click here to read more about the launch of Let’s Move! Active Schools.

Don Yu is a special advisor to the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Education