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SPARK into Action

By
Claire Heffernan,   Messalonskee Middle School
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Topics:
Physical Activity Participation, Student Leadership, Success with Funds,  Teamwork
SPARK into Action
In the spring of 2016, Mark Hatch, Messalonskee Middle School Principal read the book, SPARK by John J. Ratey, MD. He assembled a team of staff members led by the physical education teachers to establish a SPARK program for our school. The team met during the summer to establish goals, configure time for the 30 minutes of activity a day (classes were reduced by 5 minutes to allocate for the 30 minutes of physical activity), choose the number of activities offered, create staff training for each activity led by the staff, create a sign-up plan for activities, develop the schedule, number of activity rotations and provide a school-wide kick-off for the activities. Our SPARK Goals are: 1) Students will learn better, 2) Students will be more focused, 3) Students and staff will be fitter, 4) Students will behave better. Principal and Team goals; 1) Increase in physical activity for students and staff 3 days a week 2) Students will chose their activity  3) Materials and equipment will be purchased to support the program. Messalonskee Middle School is in their second year of the SPARK program which has been very successful in meeting their goals. Pulling in all the components of the program was monumental and was a challenge at times. MMS is successful in keeping our program going for 6 program cycles with the support of staff and students. Students and staff enjoy learning new skills with each rotation cycle. The activities offered are walking, hiking, biking, circuit class, jump roping, hula hooping, basketball, Yoga, snowshoeing, cross-country skiing, capture the flag, frisbee/Eagle Ball and more. Our introduction of the SPARK Program into our school would not have been possible without the support and cooperation of our staff and students and sometimes the Maine weather.

How did students and adults work together as a team?

• Teachers co-run activities • Students provide feedback to change activities • Staff development protocols and teacher notes for activities • Staff planned kick-off event

How did you accomplish your goals?

• Students are physically active approximately ½ day of school • Students chose activities they like with students and teachers they enjoy working with • Materials have been developed and purchased with grants to support the activities

What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?

• Challenge - Staff numbers of students was unreasonable for the activity. Solution – Changed original schedule to make Unified arts staff available for all days. • Challenge – Finding materials for each activity and event. Solution – awarded grant funds to purchase materials and equipment for each activity