School Spotlight: Belmont-Cragin Takes Strides with PE

December 09, 2013 | Written By:

One school’s story of getting kids moving…

Today we’re featuring a blog based on a story [pdf] by our friends at the Illinois Public Health Institute (IPHI)!


Belmont-Cragin Elementary School in Chicago has seen the academic benefits of increasing physical activity throughout the school day and adopting SPARK, an evidence-based PE curriculum that engages students in more moderate to vigorous physical activity than their previous PE curriculum. PE teacher Dennis Peters led this initiative with consistent support from school administrators and Chicago Public Schools (CPS).

Peters attributes much of the trend towards health, wellness, and enhanced physical education to strong leadership from the CPS Office of Student Health and Wellness. The office works to increase the quality of health services and wellness environments, and assists schools in enhancing PE. The first step:  Professional development. Since September 2012, the Physical Education Leadership Team (PELT), convened by CPS, has provided six professional development training days designed to familiarize teachers with enhanced PE and the neuroscience research supporting it.

Overall, Belmont-Cragin has employed the following solutions to improve students’ health and wellness:

  • DESKercises: In partnership with the Walmart Foundation’s Wellness Academics & You (WAY) program, the school introduced DESKercises, fun games related to the core curriculum that encourage physical activity in the classroom.

  • Go for the Gold campaign: With help from HSC and CPS, the school encourage schools to meet the HealthierUS Schools Challenge standards, which included making a commitment to healthier snacks.

  • 30+20+10: Following the guidelines of CPS’ 30+20+10 program, the students now participate in 30 minutes of daily PE, 20 minutes of recess and 10 minutes of physical activity in the classroom every day.

  • Field trips: To get the students excited about physical activity, Peters finds creative ways to get them moving, from taking the students to the Bulls-Sox Training Academy to Northeastern Illinois University’s Adventure Challenge Education camp, where they use high and low ropes courses to encourage team building and problem solving.

  • Test prep: Since utilizing the SPARK curriculum, Peters has noticed an upward trend in his students’ test scores, specifically on the Illinois Standard Achievement Test (ISAT). The school had students walking at least 20 minutes before taking their ISAT test and saw the results improve.

  • Neuroscience research: showing that students who engage in physical activity prior to taking a standardized test perform better. “We had our students walking at least 20 minutes before they took their ISAT test, and we saw results,” says Peters.

  • New Approach to PE: Rather than having students stand around for five minutes as the teacher took attendance at the beginning of PE, SPARK has the students entering the gym running or immediately beginning with group exercise while Peters takes attendance. Peters focuses on keeping all students as close to being 100 percent active at all times and vigorously engaged 50 percent of the class time.”


On December 18, the CPS Board of Education will vote on taking steps to ensure high-quality, daily PE for all students.  Tweet support of daily PE! Tweet @ChiPubSchools with #StepUpForPE.

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