Over the last few years, the middle-schoolers’ interest in physical activities has been dropping consistently. Even those children and young people who exercise regularly do not necessarily reach the recommended numbers. The City of Vaasa is working to tackle this problem with the Middle Schools on the Move project, implemented over the course of the year 2023.
– We acknowledge that some children and young people may feel too embarrassed to exercise in public, that sometimes proper equipment or space might not be available, and that sometimes it’s simply too cold to exercise outdoors. We’re taking on these challenges by devoting more space for all kind of movement, offering sports equipment, and training break-time peer activators among the students, lists Sanna Laulaja, a PE teacher and a coordinator of the Schools on the Move programme.
Traveling to school by bike or foot
The project includes all the basic education middle schools in the city: Borgaregatans skola, Merenkurkun koulu, and the grades 7–9 of the comprehensive schools of Onkilahti, Savilahti, and Variska.
Traveling to school by bike or by foot is encouraged, among other things, by introducing various campaigns. The parents will also be encouraged to not take their children to school by car.
– Or, if that cannot be avoided, the parents are advised to drop their child off a bit further away from the school building than right in front of the gate. This way, some movement will be added into the mornings, Laulaja instructs.
Involving the students is important
Studies show that the physical activity during the school day is the most important for the physically least active students. Involving the students in different ways becomes important.
– We train pupils as break-time peer activators and instructors of the events and campaigns planned to activate the pupils. Moreover, student bodies are involved in planning and implementing the activities taking place in their own institutions, such as, for example, physically active events for the whole school, Laulaja describes.
The city’s Sport Services brings their personal trainers to school
The Sports Services of the city of Vaasa will be offering personal trainer services to the middle-schoolers. The personal trainer services are experimented with at the Variska comprehensive school over the course of the spring term.
– The School-PT helps the young people familiarize with the opportunities for sports and physical activities in their neighbourhood as well as encourages the young people to move independently, Laulaja informs.
All basic education schools participate in the Schools on the Move Programme
Already since 2015, all the institutions of basic education in Vaasa, primary and middle levels, have participated in the national Schools on the Move programme. All the schools have project groups whose task it is to come up with ways to activate the pupils of their school.
Many schools have already succeeded in becoming more active by introducing, among other things, long exercise breaks, the opportunity to borrow sports equipment, and various physically active events into their school year. In addition, many schools have trained pupils as break-time peer activators.
– We can see great results among the primary-schoolers, but the middle school environment is vastly more challenging, and the efficiency is not what we had hoped for. That’s why we are taking up the challenge! This project targets the middle-schoolers, the group that moves the least, and adopts it as its aim to make the middle-schoolers move more, Laulaja describes.