By Mary Kate Cary, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Here’s where “Let’s Move” meets “No Child Left Behind”: The Naperville, Illinois’ “Learning Readiness” PE program, in which kids who are struggling with math and science go to gym class first. According to ABC News, Naperville students’ standardized reading scores are drastically higher, and math scores are up by a factor of 20, as a result of walking or running on a treadmill for ten minutes immediately before class. Apparently exercise releases all kinds of chemicals in the brain which help sharpen your ability to learn. (I’ve heard a lot lately about a book called Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain, which goes into more detail on the success of the Naperville program and the latest brain/exercise research.)
So the last thing schools should do is take kids off of sports teams when their grades are bad--like mine did when I was a kid. Instead, they should do the reverse: Any kid who is struggling academically should be required to exercise before doing their homework. Take a look at the differences in brain activity for the Naperville kids before and after exercise. I think they’re on to something here, and we’d be wise to try and replicate it in other schools.