Nobody is ordering teachers to participate, Weikle said. "They'd dig their heels in harder," she said. "We want them to buy in. We want this to become as normal as taking roll, part of what a good teacher does."
A former P.E. teacher, Weikle is full of ideas about ways to weave movement into academic instruction. How about jumping jacks while kids recite multiplication tables? A dancing spelling bee, stopping for 15 seconds to scribble after a spelling word is called?
Kids can spell words with their bodies while others guess the words. They can jump when they hear a correct history statement and squat when they hear a false one.
She is collecting videos of kids moving in class, with teacher testimonials, to show at schools that haven't tried it yet. "Once teachers hear from other teachers that it works, a bunch more will want to try."
"They're going in the right direction, but it's not enough and it should be mandatory," said Sam Zizzi, West Virginia University professor of physical activity and sports sciences. "I'm guessing the 15 minutes will be squeezed in and won't be consistent. There'll be no quality control.
"If we really want to take a stand for fitness, we have to follow the national recommendation and get all kids physically active an hour a day. We need to make it a real part of the school day and teach kids that physical activity is important to a healthy life.
"But still, they're starting, and that's great," he said. "The Superintendent is putting that expectation from the top out there. That's a powerful thing."
It's a national movement, Weikle said.
In January, Weikle awarded the first $500 Let's Move! grants to 48 schools. Diana Elementary got one. "We don't have a P.E. teacher, so our teachers teach their own. We'll buy classroom materials," principal Cool said.
"I keep hearing about schools doing creative things," Weikle said: zumba at lunchtime, line dancing before school, outside and inside walking tracks.
Why not daily PE?
In 2005, the Department of Education gave the Legislature a shockingly high estimate of the money it would cost West Virginia to have daily physical education. Physical education requires certified teachers and code-specified facilities, they said. But "physical activity" can happen anytime, anywhere, supervised by any school-approved person.
The Department now says the cost can drop dramatically, if some days are physical activity. "That can be led by volunteers, teachers, or hired aides," Purkey said. "We'd need to train them."
Kids should be moving at least an hour a day, according to: the American Heart Association, Stroke Association, Cancer Society, Institute of Medicine, Centers for Disease Control, and the American Diabetes Association.
For physical education classes, those organizations recommend 30 minutes a day for elementary kids and 225 minutes a week for middle and high school students.
West Virginia doesn't come close. Elementary students are required to have 30 minutes, three times a week. Middle school kids must have 30 minutes a day for one semester, but many schools collapse it into an hour a day for 18 weeks, then no P.E. for the rest of the year.
High school students are required to take only one semester during all four years.
"We don't want to replace physical education. We just want to add more physical activity," Weikle said. "We've got to get kids moving however we can."
At the same time, a coalition of West Virginians from various sectors, ranging from business to child care are putting together a West Virginia physical activity plan that covers both adults and children. No state agency has adopted it yet, since it is not yet complete, but the efforts show that "a wide range of West Virginians recognize the need for it," Weikle said.
Reach Kate Long at 304-348-1798 or katel...@wvgazette.com.
"The Shape We're In" was written with the help of the Dennis A. Hunt Fund for Health Journalism, administered by the California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships, at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.