2009 Our Community Reads: Sparking fitness for healthy bodies and minds

December 11, 2008

Are you a parent, grandparent, child caregiver, or teacher striving for a child's greater success in school? Are you interested in learning about strategies designed to improve a child's ability to focus and stay on task? Are stress and meltdowns an ongoing struggle in your home? Are you concerned about the impacts of screen time physically and mentally on your child?

This February, Hopkins Community Education and Minnetonka Community Education are promoting their annual Community Book Read in collaboration with the Marsh Center for Fitness and Balance. This year's book selection is "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain" (Spark), by John Ratey, M.D., in collaboration with Eric Hagerman.

About Spark

The book highlights changes going on in schools and the work place as new research shows the vital connection between exercise and brain performance. Spark may be a catalyst for changing the way students, staff, and community members look at the importance of physical activity.

Dr. Ratey explains the chemical changes in the brain that show the far-reaching power of regular exercise in improving the learning, and emotional and physical well-being of students as well as adults. He highlights solid research gathered through innovative programs in schools across the country.

One of the schools that Ratey focuses on is the Naperville School District in Illinois. The Naperville program of daily activity is 17 years old, and has resulted in increased academic test scores, a reduction in discipline issues, and physical fit children who have the knowledge and expertise to maintain fitness as adults. A similar program was started in a secondary school in Titusville, PA., which involved adding 10 minutes to the school day and subtracting a small amount of time from academic classes to include time for daily gym. Since the program was started in 2000, standardized scores of students moved from below the state average to 17 percent above the state average in reading and 18 percent above the state average in math. Social and emotional gains have also been significant.

Ratey examines the positive impact of physical activity on adult lives. Exercise can help adults stay more focused and productive in the work place. It also aids in management of stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, and dementia.

How to Participate

Join the community read of "Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain". Book may be purchased for $20 from Hopkins Community Education in Room 127 at the Eisenhower Community Center, 1001 Highway 7, Hopkins. Books are also available for purchase from online resources, and can be checked out from local Hennepin County libraries

A free, community presentation by Dr. Ratey is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the Arts Center in Minnetonka (adjacent to Minnetonka High School near the intersection of Highway 7 and Highway 101).

Additional Information

For additional information, please visit www.hopkinscommunityed.org (Parents), or call Cathy Rude, Hopkins Public Schools' parent education coordinator, at 952.988.4081.

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