On the field at Edison Elementary this spring, it’s hard to tell who’s having more fun: the kindergarten and first grade students scrambling through mini obstacle courses, learning to jump rope or trying a hula-hoop for the first time, or the college athletes cheering the kids on and inspiring them to keep moving.

UC San Diego Triton athletes are reporting to Edison Elementary School each week this year to lead classes and serve as active and healthy role models for IMPACT, a physical education activity program designed to promote moderate to vigorous physical activity for elementary school students. IMPACT (Increasing Movement and Physical Activity Class Time) is a pilot partnership program between UC San Diego Center for Community Health – School Wellness Programs funded by Health and Human Services Agency under the Nutrition Education Obesity and Prevention Branch (NEOPB); the UC San Diego Athletics Department; and the San Diego Unified School District Department of Physical Education, Health and Athletics (SDUSD). The CREATE STEM Success Initiative was instrumental in helping forge the partnership between university partners and the San Diego Unified School District.

“The IMPACT program was looking for additional campus support and university Athletics is always interested in new ways to serve the local community,” said Susan Yonezawa, network coordinator for the CREATE STEM Success Initiative and CREATE’s associate director. “This is an exciting, cross-campus partnership between UC San Diego’s School of Medicine’s Center for Community Health – School Wellness Programs and UC San Diego’s outstanding Athletics organization. The CREATE STEM Success Initiative was launched as a connector for this kind of campus support to the San Diego K-12 community.”

impact UC San Diego student athletes meet twice a week at Edison to lead two, 20-minute station-based physical fitness sequences for the IMPACT program. Kindergarten and first graders rotate classroom-by-classroom through five physical activity stations led by the student athletes. Each station lasts about three minutes and corresponds with one component of physical fitness. Twenty-two UC San Diego student athletes and 181 Edison Elementary students participated in this year’s program.

According to Lynn Barnes-Wallace, PE resource teacher for SDUSD Dept. of PE, Health and Athletics, and creator of IMPACT, the program is easy to enough for teachers and students to do, without a lot of set up, while keeping students moving and having fun.

Edison Elementary was chosen as an ideal school for the IMPACT program because recent BMIs of their students show that 55% of students are overweight or obese. Additionally, with only a part-time PE teacher, the kindergarten and first graders were not receiving any PE throughout the week.

“With the help of Derek Murchison, the enthusiastic and supportive principal at Edison, we were able to launch the program in January,” said Kaitlin Mohr, intern from UC San Diego Center for Community Health – School Wellness Programs. Throughout the program, Mohr was on site conducting observation and evaluation of the program using the SOFIT observation tool developed by Thomas McKenzie at San Diego State University. The observation tool required Mohr to observe student activity levels, teacher interaction and lesson context.

From the observations, it was found that the IMPACT program engaged students in moderate to vigorous physical activity during 79% of the program. Additionally, teachers were either promoting (i.e. offering encouragement and praise) or demonstrating physical activity during 58% of the program. Her study found that these two teacher interactions had the greatest influence on increasing student activity levels.

impact 2“The [UC San Diego] athletes encourage the students to be active, achieve academic success and to believe in their dreams,” said a teacher. “Having college athletes participate in the program made students feel like they were important and supported.”  Another said that they were “great role models and encouraged students to exercise more.” Murchison noted that “it is really great for our students to interact with the wonderful athletes from UC San Diego… it is a great experience for all.”

Barnes-Wallace is working with Edison PE teacher Wendy Jensen to incorporate the IMPACT program into the master schedule for all grade levels twice a week starting next year.