SRU selected as one of two schools nationally to partner with Active Schools to address childhood wellness education

Children playing soccer

As a leader in implementing physical and health education programs in public schools, Slippery Rock University is one of two higher education partners with the Active Schools movement, a national collaborative that provides programming and resources for nearly 23,000 schools.

March 1, 2018

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University is again in the forefront of improving childhood wellness education. The University was one of only two institutions nationally selected to partner with Active Schools, a national collaborative promoting physical activity for schoolchildren and the prevention of childhood obesity.

"Schools can be the epicenter of changing the health and wellness of our society," said Randy Nichols, SRU professor of physical and health education and school wellness education coordinator. "People think of hospitals, therapy (clinics) and drug stores as places to change your health, but they don't think of schools."

SRU and the University of Northern Colorado were selected last fall as two higher education partners for Active Schools, which was formerly known as the Let's Move! public health campaign under the Obama Administration. Nearly 23,000 schools are enrolled in Active Schools programming and resources, serving more than 13 million students. The nearly 100 partners include leading health, education, government and private sector organizations, including Nike and the American Heart Association, are working to create active school environments.

As a higher education partner, SRU advocates for Active Schools in schools and provides feedback to help other Active Schools partners recognize schools' needs. Nearly half of the 200 physical and health education majors at SRU are on the teacher education track, including 13 who are currently serving as student-teachers in schools.

Nichols Headshot


"A robust active school environment requires leadership, and physical and health education teachers are the logical choice to serve as their school's physical activity leader," said Charlene Burgeson, executive director of Active Schools, and a 1988 SRU graduate with a degree in lifetime fitness. "Slippery Rock University understands this and is committed to preparing their students to become well-qualified teachers and leaders of school wellness. We're thrilled that SRU is a partner in the Active Schools movement to serve as a thought leader and model for other college/university teacher preparation programs."

Nichols also sees the partnership as a way to spread the Active Schools message, so when SRU students are hired as physical education teachers they can advocate and implement physical activity programming in their new schools.

According to Active Schools, only six states require physical education in every grade, while only 20 percent of school districts require daily recess. Two out of three kids don't get the recommended 60 minutes of physical activity per day. Studies have shown that physical activity not only helps kids stay healthy and strong, but it can also contribute to higher test scores, improved attendance, better behavior in class, enhanced leadership skills and a lifetime of healthy habits.

"If you're healthy and well, you're able to learn better," said Nichols, referencing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model that supports a school-wide approach, not just sections of a physical education class. "(Schools are) so worried about test scores but we haven't really paid attention to students' health and wellness. We keep cutting physical education and health and we're asking students to sit more. If you really worry about test scores, they'll go up if you concentrate on wellness."

The Active Schools movement also serves as a hub for grants and funding so that the schools can access resources that fits their needs, such as health education curriculum and materials and sports equipment.

"We want to be the leaders," Nichols added. "We want to create a different vision to what being a health and physical education teacher could be, not that it was bad before, but times change and school have different needs."

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