Harlem Middle School Emphasizes the 'Brain' in Brain Breaks - Action for Healthy Kids
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Harlem Middle School Emphasizes the ‘Brain’ in Brain Breaks

Harlem Middle School
Loves Park, Illinois

During the 2019-2020 school year, Harlem Middle School in Loves Park, IL is making the connection between learning, educational experiences and brain breaks. The 7th and 8th graders at this middle school have been benefiting from the innovative thinking of school staff, who created new ways to use exercise to enhance the learning process. Lisa Boelkes, Physical Education teacher at Harlem Middle School noted, “Anytime we can get students up and moving so they can better focus on learning is a good thing.” 

The school staff has been studying brain research, which confirms that students that are active and healthy learn better. With that knowledge, Harlem Middle School applied for and was awarded a $1,000 Game On Grant from Action for Healthy Kids to make their innovative thinking a reality. The school has been able to enhance brain breaks, an active pause in instruction to promote learning while providing creativity, leadership and bonding among students, with new supplies and ideas. Students take turns choosing and leading the brain breaks, which range from activities like true/false quizzes and “Would You Rather?”, where each result involves a specific type of movement, to posing, breathing, and visualizing exercises that help calm the body and mind. 

In addition, the grant helped the school purchase new PE equipment and posters indicating the benefits of water consumption. These initiatives have helped the school achieve a “Commendable” rating on the Illinois State Report Card, and Jerry Teresi, a teacher at Harlem Middle School further notes, “These changes have been a win-win for the students and the teachers.”  

The school also makes their focus on fitness, health and wellness a community priority. In April, Harlem Middle School will hold an Every Kid Healthy- F.I.T.T. Week where students, community members, parents and staff members will participate in activities and informational programs to promote exercise. The objective of this week is to make students aware of the opportunities that exist in their community. To make this event a success, leaders will survey staff members to gather data on participation rates along with information on how the program can be improved 


This grant was made possible with funding from CSX.