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  • Students get a kick out of leading recess games

    Jan 13, 2017 | Read More News
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    Elvira recess leaders in actionRecess is fun time and – for newly minted “recess leaders” – it’s also time to show some leadership skills.  

    In December, Pima County Health Department staff empowered several school-age children from Elvira Elementary School to become recess leaders and help increase physical activity among their peers during recess. 

    “We had been brainstorming for ways to build more leadership capacity within our student council members, so this fit perfectly,” said Andy Townsend, Elvira Elementary School principal.

    This leadership effort resulted as part of the Pima County Health Department’s Coordinated School Health Program, which started in 2007 to promote health and wellness activities in schools. Since this initiative began, PCHD has worked with several school districts to implement wellness activities in over 100 schools with an end goal of helping children meet the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity each day.

    Three years ago, PCHD staff added the student leadership training component as a sustainability keystone for the program. 

    “Kids want opportunities to be active and lead their peers,” said Brian Eller, PCHD School Health Program coordinator. “Peer to peer teaching is a great way to make that happen.”

    recess leaders in trainingBefore implementing the leadership training program, PCHD staff asks the participating school to provide an equipment inventory and possible training times. The school must also identify a group of students who can be trained to lead physical activities at their school and train peers.   

    In the case of Elvira Elementary, student council members and representatives assumed the role of recess leaders. 

    “I wanted to be a part of this program because I wanted to be one to help kids get more active and have more fun during recess,” said sixth-grader Nashelle Ponds, student council president. “It rewards me as a person and an individual when I see people smiling. I want to make a big impact.”

    PCHD staff trained students on how to become positive role models and activity leaders during recess time. They also offer materials and instruction on four separate recess games and coaching on conflict resolution to equip students with proper skill sets to keep the recess activities successful. Participating students also receive official student leader vests, courtesy of the program.

    “Our student council leaders feel great pride in wearing their recess leader vests and leading their peers on the playground,” Townsend said. 

    One of the recess games taught, and the most popular among Elvira’s sixth graders, is Alaskan Kickball. Kids learn this modified version of kickball where all the players on the kicking team must run the bases after a kick. Meanwhile, all players on the fielding team must line up and pass the ball to each other, alternating from under the legs to over the head, before the kicking team travels all of the bases and returns home.

    Parachute volleyball is another school-wide favorite and one favored by the recess leaders because it helps build teamwork skills as it requires students to talk to each other and work together. 

    In addition to creating a structured playtime, this leadership program enables students to encourage others to participate. 

    recess leaders training“Recess leaders actively recruit other students who typically sit during recess to participate in games,” Eller said. “By three weeks of implementation, about 90 to 95 percent of all students engage in recess activities.” 

    Some council members have also put the activities they learned into practice outside of recess time.

    “I’ve used the bear, princess, hunter conflict resolution activity at home when deciding who was going to be ‘it’ in a game of tag,” said fourth-grader Rafaela Cuevas. “We also sometimes used these games in P.E.”

    Since PCHD began offering this free student leadership training, staff have coached students from 27 schools. The program is available to all Pima County school districts. Administrators interested in implementing this leadership course at their school can submit a request to the Coordinated School Health Program at (520) 724-7952 or brian.eller@pima.gov.

    “I would highly recommend this program to other schools,” Townsend said. “All schools benefit from student leadership, not to mention healthy, organized fitness activities that are safe for all students.”


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