At Kyrene del Cielo Elementary School Keeping kids healthy means keeping kids active

Keeping kids active and engaged in physical activities at a young age is vital to their development. Gavin Martin, program supervisor for the Kyrene School District, knows this. He has been working to get kids more involved while making sure to maintain safety. 

Martin is working with Kyrene del Cielo Elementary School in west Chandler to implement a new program to get children active. The program was used last year at Kyrene de los Niños Elementary and is dedicated to keeping kids safe while offering opportunities for them to participate.

“Instead of the kids going out for just free play, this provides them the chance to participate in activities coordinated by a staff member designed to prevent behavior issues and conflicts that keep kids from having fun,” Martin said.

The issues he is talking about are bullying, unfair play and injuries. Most parents are concerned about their child participating in athletics at school because of these reasons, and now parents at Cielo can breathe a sigh of relief.

Planning for the program started two years ago when then-Principal Mike Deignan approached the district about activities that the children could participate in that were more than just free play.

Current Principal Tina Nicks has continued the work at Cielo, and the program hasn’t lost momentum. Martin was put in charge and used his experience at Waggoner Elementary monitoring a lunchtime sports program to start over, first at Niños and now Cielo.

He brought in staff from Kyrene Kids Club to help run the program. Their duties include setting up eight to 10 stations for the kids, including hula hoops, jump ropes and tetherball.

“One staff member stays in the station area to supervise and engage with those children. Another staff member provides an active game for the kids to participate in, like tag, kickball or football. Whatever it may be, they provide staff-led games to keep the kids entertained.”

The new program is set up for kindergarten through fifth-grade children, while another is in place to offer fourth and fifth graders the opportunity to play more organized sports.

For the most part, the kids set everything up, picking captains and teams, as well as deciding what sports they play. They compete against each other’s classes, and the teachers are there only to observe and step in if needed.

“We help the children learn how to be active and healthy while having fun. The lunchtime-sports staff members are also there to help children with conflict resolution, if it’s needed. The staff is able to guide the children to solve problems with one another during lunch recess.  This helps the teacher by providing more learning time in the classroom instead of resolving the issues that occur on the playground,” Martin said.

With America’s schools being hit with budget cuts, many of which affect athletics in a negative way, it is promising to see that plans like Cielo’s lunch activities are still being implemented, say observers of the initiative.

The objective in the long run is to have the program spread across the school district—a realistic goal once parents and the community get word of how affordable and helpful it can be.

Letting the kids experience recess and free time is vital, but another important aspect is getting kids outside and active at a young age, planners say.

In an era where diabetes and obesity are prevalent, teaching kids to be active and outgoing is more important than ever, according to experts. Understanding the importance of an active lifestyle starts early, and the people that children look up to most are parents and teachers.

Seeing Cielo Elementary take a step in the right direction is a promising beginning in an effort to set a trend for the rest of the schools around the Kyrene district.

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