It’s tough enough getting high school kids up and out the door for the start of the Staples day: 7:30 a.m.
Imagine getting them there at 6:30 — for an entire semester. So they could exercise.
But that’s exactly what phys ed teacher Michael Caetano’s students have done since January. And they love it.
The Learning Readiness Physical Education program grew out of research proving that exercise spurs brain activity, increases alertness and improves academic learning. Caetano spoke with teachers at Naperville Central High School in Illinois — nationally recognized for its program in brain research and physical education — and suggested a similar effort at Staples.
After department head Dave Gusitsch gave thumbs-up, Caetano asked the math, English and guidance department heads for names of freshman students who might benefit. He interviewed them, to find good matches for the proposed program.
The beginning was tough. Students yawned, were listless — a few even slept.
It did not take long, though, before they literally got with the program. Soon they eagerly played basketball, then immediately began exercising.
Over the past 5 months, students’ grades improved. Their teachers said they participated more in class too.
The freshmen reported feeling more awake during the day — including 1st period — and had more positive attitudes about school. Their time iin the assistant principal’s office decreased.
Students had Wednesdays off. One boy decided to get up early that day and play basketball on his own, just for the exercise.
Parents — who had to get up earlier themselves, and drive their youngsters to school — saw benefits too.
“She wants to be there on time,” one mother said of her daughter. “She never showed any interest in physical activity before. Now she wants to sign up for Zumba this summer.”
Perhaps even the 7 a.m. class.