Just before Christmas, the kids came home from school with an information sheet about a new before school program starting in January. BOKS: “build our kids success” is supported by extensive research and funded by Reebok, The CFL and The Government of Canada. Inspired by Dr. John Ratey and his book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, BOKS provides 45 minute classes, 2-3 times per week focused on functional movement, fitness, and unstructured play. Dr. Ratey’s research demonstrates that physical activity can engage and strengthen the circuitry of the brain to improve stress, thinking, and even memory in kids.
I was somewhat familiar with the Spark concept, as the Phys. Ed. head at Aurora High School (Rob’s school) has already introduced the benefits of Spark. The Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines for Children and Youth, recommend that 5 to 17 year olds get at least 60 minutes of daily moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity. Despite these recommendations, new data from Statistics Canada reveal that only 9% of 5 to 17 year olds in Canada meets this target (2012-13 CHMS, Statistics Canada). The 2015 ParticipACTION report explains that “….a child’s overall physical activity is linked to physical and mental health, maintenance of a healthy body weight, academic performance, motor skill development and physical literacy, among other benefits.”
The research clearly supports the benefits of increased regular physical activity. Kids love to move, play, and engage in their learning environment. Why isn’t this type of program a daily part of our kids day in all schools? Teachers are unfortunately challenged by the constraints of the curriculum in terms of physical activity and gym class. As a parent, I am thrilled that BOKS is becoming a part of the kids’ school day twice a week, and I hope that our school is only one of the many in the area that is partaking in the BOKS program. (My informal parent poll suggests otherwise however…) Check out their website at www.bokskids.org to see how to get your school involved!
Maybe Rob and I are biased – our own positive experiences with physical activity and sport led to our chosen professions. We are super lucky to have “jobs” that are rewarding in this way. Our kids have always also loved any type of movement based fun, and struggle when not able to move enough throughout the day. We actually kept Kellen out of junior kindergarten, choosing to keep him instead at the Newmarket Co-op Nursery School. The Co-op’s preschool and kindergarten program maintained a child directed, play based learning set up, with a huge amount of movement choice and freedom throughout the day. The next year, in “regular” senior kindergarten, every day when I picked him up during the first month, Kellen told his teacher and I very clearly that there was “too much sitting and circle time” lol. Thankfully, his teacher made great efforts to get him moving more even in the classroom, and he (mostly) rewarded her with a more focused attention. Fast forward to grade 3, and we still see the necessity of keeping him active to keep him engaged in the classroom.
Olivia also has an imagination that fuels her movement, activity, and play. She would (and still does at times) play forever in the big snow banks in our court, and happily played solo or with friends at any play park from the time she could walk. Even now she will wander the court with a basketball or lacrosse stick/ball in hand without any indication of boredom. Like me growing up – she’s either moving, doing homework, or reading another book. Two gears: on and off.
In a time where technology rules and a sedentary lifestyle is the norm, we have to work a little harder to find pockets of activity – not only for our health, but also for our brains. And especially for our kids. They need to know how good it feels to move, and how that goodness fuels our bodies and our brains. When you know better, do better as the saying goes. We’ll let you know how the BOKS program works out. First class this Tuesday!