Some mornings, he says, the kids line dance. Other days, they do aerobic exercise. "We try to mix it up. Last year, all we did was walk in the mornings. It got old, but at least they were moving.
"So we brainstormed over the summer and came up with this program. Everyone's loving it.
"Childhood obesity is a major problem, and we want to at least establish the mindset in these kids that physical activity is fun," he says. "Then hopefully, they'll carry on when they get older."
The kids swirl and drift from one activity to another, laughing and talking. The half hour speeds by. At the signal, kids gather up the equipment and carry it to the closet. Within minutes, the gym floor is clear, and the kids are in the bleachers, waiting for the signal to line up, class by class.
Then they're off, to class or breakfast. Nobody looks sleepy anymore.
Taking a break
A couple of hours later, it's raining outside, so Vicki Lacey is at the cafeteria tables, playing cup-stacking games that causes the kids to cross right hand over left. The clatter of cups fills the cafeteria. "Eye-hand coordination helps when you're learning to read left to right," Lacey says.
A teacher pulls a cart filled with colorful items out of a storage closet and wheels it down the hall. "That's our activity cart," DeRose says. "They're getting ready to take a physical activity break."
The activity cart goes into the classroom, and within minutes, fourth-graders are standing by their desks, throwing colorful scarves in the air, trying to turn around before they catch them. A few are pitching foam horseshoes. Others throw fuzzy balls at a sticky target. They're laughing, having fun.
In about 10 minutes, the teacher gives a one-minute warning. Students put the items back on the cart. "I love it that you can roll the cart in and roll it out," the teacher says. "Then we're back to work."
Out in the hall, DeRose is walking a child to class. "Kids became less active about the time technology started to boom," he says. "Instead of going out to play after school, they went home to watch MTV. And from MTV, they got on their computers and PlayStations, etc. etc. etc. and pretty soon, they were sitting most the time.
"At least at this school, they're active.
"This should help us pull our school's test scores up too," he says. "There's research that says kids do better academically when they're physically active. It all goes together, doesn't it?"
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.