Cabot School Board members jumped, twirled fingers, drew figure-8s in the air at the January school board meeting. Led by Kelly Spencer, Cabot School District Health & Wellness Coordinator, they were introduced to some changes to physical education.

"Hopefully, your brain is more awake than it was 30 seconds ago, There is emerging research that shows that what we just did … sent blood to sections of your brain where concentration happens, where problem solving happens," Spencer said.

Spencer explained the changes in programming, scheduling, and other approaches to physical education for students and the training being done with PE teachers.

Specific movement, such as she had the board members perform, help students achieve in the classroom, Spencer said. "We also know that more fit students have higher achievement scores, so what [physical education leaders] do is important," she said.

Teachers are searching for ways to increase the physical activity of all K-12 students, Spencer said. "But things have changed from the traditional P.E. that you grew up on, that I grew up on," Spencer said.

Traditionally, P.E. was ball-sports oriented with students waiting 20 minutes for their turn to play for five minutes. P.E. is moving away from that format, she said.

At the middle school level, teachers have been discussing how to "maximize engagement." Ideally, each student has a piece of equipment, and each student is engaged in activity, Spencer said. "That is what we want to do in our district."

Scheduling of P.E. teachers has customarily used them for student interventions, or added subject support for students. "Putting a P.E. teacher in an academic intervention is like taking a math teacher and having them teach someone Chinese,’ Spencer said.

A better use of the P.E. teachers is to arrange the schedule to send the P.E. teachers to the junior high school to teach coaches on maximizing engagement, Spencer said.

Also, sending the teachers to high school also helps reduce the size of the P.E. classes at that school, she said.

This also coordinates with Board of Education guidance to increase attention to fitness at the junior and high school levels, she said.

At the elementary through middle levels, attention is being given to foundation building – running, jumping, kicking, throwing and catching. Everyone will be actively involved, no one will be sitting on the sideline waiting for a few minutes of participation, she said.

The "athletic avenue" would be available at the seventh grade level, should a student wish to do that, Spencer said.

Students who do not choose the athletic approach, will be placed in the P.E. program, which has been changed to be more fitness oriented, she said.

Students in P.E. will be taught how to set their own fitness, how to make a fitness plan, Spencer said. If they go to a health club, what is the best way to use the equipment.

The P.E. paraprofessionals will again be available for P.E. classes, Spencer said. They have been taught class management and student engagement, she said.

The additional training was given during the summer, during sessions for which they were not paid, Spencer said. "That tells me we have a dedicated group of people…" Spencer remarked.

The "Adventure to Fitness" approach includes "brain breaks," or four minutes of exercises similar to those she led at the start of her presentation, Spencer said.

"That will help get students back on task," she said.

Adventure to Fitness also works well for indoor recesses, Spencer said.