MMS wins State Champion Award from President's Counsel on
Fitness, Sports, and Nutrition
By Monica Van Aken, Ed. D, Head of School
We have just learned that Milwaukee Montessori School has received the highest national award celebrating outstanding achievement in physical fitness and has been named a President’s Challenge Physical Fitness State Champion School for 2009-2010. Only three schools in each state receive this honor.
The fitness training set forth by the Presidential Champions Challenge is more advanced than the Presidential Fitness tests given in most schools. Aimed at students who are already physically active, the goal is for students to exceed the 85th percentile in strength, flexibility, agility, and speed. Our students worked toward this goal during the school year and many ended up performing well beyond the standard.
So why is it important for MMS students to attain this distinction? Beyond the obvious benefits of preventing obesity and preparing for lifelong fitness and healthy living habits, we know that physical exercise has a positive impact on student learning. Over the past two decades, many schools have cut back P.E. in an effort to increase academic test scores, yet studies reveal that when time away from academic subjects is used for physical education, it leads to better academic performance in all subjects.
Dr. John Ratey, a psychiatrist and Harvard professor, has written extensively on the benefits of exercise, which he describes as “food for the brain.” Ratey says that exercise stimulates development of new brain cells in the hippocampus, the “area that is very key to our memory and learning capacity.” He says that the elimination of outdoor recess and athletics classes in favor of more classroom time is a “tragedy.”
At MMS, we not only understand the link, we have been making a very conscious effort to increase the impact of our athletic programs. This prestigious award comes after our 5th and 6th grade basketball
team won first place in their league, our 7th grade basketball team won second place in their league, and after students on the track and field team qualified for the regional and then the state championships.
Beyond all of the studied benefits, our students are simply proud of their accomplishments. “At first I hated gym class and I complained,” said Chase Kelly. “Then after a month I didn’t notice how hard the workouts were; I was used to them. Now, over a year later, I’m an animal!” Upper elementary girls agreed saying, “Oh, we hated gym class in the beginning of 4th grade, but now we are used to the training and we love it. Actually, it’s more fun this year because we play tough training games.” The girls were unanimous in their athletic self-appraisal asserting that they are “mind-boggling ultimate football players!”