MBS Students Take Part in UVM Research

True enjoyment comes from activity of the mind and exercise of the body; the two are ever united.
—Karl Wilhelm von Humboldt

Students at Malletts Bay School are participating in an exciting pilot program designed to study the effects of exercise on a variety of areas, including academic performance, concentration, cognitive function, and health measures.

The voluntary study was designed by Connie Tompkins, PhD and David Brock, PhD, principal investigators with the Department of Rehabilitation & Movement Science at the University of Vermont. Dr. Tompkins, a Colchester resident and childhood obesity expert, reached out to Principal Julie Benay about a before-school physical activity program as a basis for the pilot study, which runs three days per week. Exercise science students from UVM help facilitate the program, engaging the participants in an interesting array of moderate-to-vigorous physical activities. Participants have a variety of equipment, such as basketballs, soccer balls, and jump ropes, to hold their interest. They all wear heart monitors, and they and their parents occasionally complete questionnaires for the statistical component of the study.

In addition to concerns about the nation’s accelerating obesity epidemic, behavioral issues in schools are also reportedly on the rise all across the country. Simultaneously, with so much emphasis on academic performance as a result of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, many schools are reducing or are altogether eliminating physical education and recess opportunities for students. (This is not the case in Colchester School District, however. At MBS, students have year-round, twice-weekly physical education, and they also have two recesses per day.) Dr. Tompkins cited a book entitled Spark describing the positive effects of aerobic exercise on brain function. The book also describes a fitness program’s effect on a particular school district in Naperville, Illinois, which essentially served to not only significantly boost students’ test scores but also served to virtually eliminate behavioral and disciplinary issues. (For more information about the Naperville, Illinois, project, click here.)

Only a small number of participants are involved in this pilot study, but it may help to build support for a larger-scale study in the spring. It may also help to assess the feasibility of implementing a more permanent before-school physical activity program. Such an ambition would also fit well with the district’s wellness program. Malletts Bay School in particular has championed a number of wellness-related initiatives. Among other examples, MBS has extensive community gardens, a newly unveiled bouldering wall, a mindfulness curriculum, and Principal Benay was recognized by VEHI in August for her contributions toward the promotion of school employee wellness.

For more information about the pilot study, please contact Dr. Connie Tompkins at connie.tompkins@uvm.edu.

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