Noodle tag during JAM

First-graders Eryn Schierholz and Kalvin Sadler swing noodles trying to hit Parker Nachtigal and Lincoln Giese in a game of noodle tag during JAM time at Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Elementary.

HARTLEY—Students at Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Elementary love JAM time and it has nothing to do with music or sandwiches.

JAM, or “Just Always Move,” was created by physical education teacher Janet Prins and principal Cathy Jochims.

It started with some research from Jochims about the lack of physical activity that children are getting.

“They’re leading a lot more sedentary lives,” Jochims said. “If we had an opportunity to give them more physical activity, we thought if we could just add something on that day they don’t have P.E. that would be awesome.”

Initially, they were going to add another 40-minute gym class, but that did not work with the schedule Prins had.

“I said, ‘Let’s cut the time in half and have everybody come and see me for 20 minutes,’” Prins said. “The purpose is for kids to get out of the classroom for a little bit, move around, then go back to the classroom and then continue to work.”

It isn’t gym time, but JAM time.

“We don’t do exercises,” Prins said. “We don’t stretch. We come in and we’ve got an activity or two that we do that I try to get the kids to move most of the time that they’re in there.”

JAM is for students between first and fourth grade. Prins said that the kindergarten and transitional kindergarten students are not involved in JAM because they could not fit it into her schedule and they already have an extra recess anyway.

Prins said the students that do get JAM time have loved it and the 20 minutes goes by quickly.

Target tag during JAM

First-grader Kendal Doughty runs from Julia Diekevers while Teegan Rose chases them in a game of target tag during JAM time at Hartley-Melvin-Sanborn Elementary.

“Pretty soon I’ll say ‘OK, it’s time to line up’ and they’ll look at me and say ‘We just got in here,’” Prins said. “No, 20 minutes are done. I say, ‘Remember it’s JAM, it’s not gym.”

There are even students that do not take to P.E. class as much but love JAM.

“I don’t know if it’s because it’s not quite as organized and it’s more play,” Prins said. “Maybe it’s because we’re not working on skills where maybe some of those kids have skills that aren’t developed yet and so they feel inferior to other kids and so this is more of a comfort zone for them. It doesn’t matter which grade I have come in here, they love it.”

Jochims said feedback on JAM has been very positive. Initially, she was a concerned that teachers may not like having less classroom time with students.

“What they’re seeing is that the turnaround of the focus and attention is that it’s helping the students,” Jochims said. “They’re not really losing time because they’re gaining more focus and attention when they do have them.”

Prins said she would like to see other schools get involved with JAM.

“If schools can get their P.E. teacher a schedule that they can make work, this is nothing but beneficial,” Prins said. “Kids are better focused in the classroom and their cognitive development gets better the more they’re moving. If we create an environment where we’re not having kids move, then not only are we hurting their health, but we’re also hurting their performance in the classroom.”

Prins has been running JAM at the elementary for three years.

“It benefits the kids for P.E., for health and in the classroom,” Prins said. “So, it’s a win-win.”

Jochims said that JAM is always in the morning and it gives students an energy boost.

“It’s interesting because you would think you’re using all that energy and you would be exhausted, but it does the exact opposite,” Jochims said. “It helps to build more energy and gives you more stamina and endurance when you are using that energy.”

Prins said she is glad that JAM has been so positive for the elementary.

“The kids are so excited to come,” she said. “They always ask me in the morning if it’s a JAM day. It’s been awesome. I really could not have asked for a better thing here.”