Daily Video

February 14, 2011

Students Flourish Hitting the Gym, Then the Books

Correspondent Jon Meacham of the PBS program, “Need to Know”, reports on how physical education is transforming academics at a suburban Chicago high school. Naperville Central, a public high school of almost 3,000 students uses exercise to not only get kids in shape but will improve their learning and academic performance.

For students who are having difficulty in reading and math they start their school day in the gym. The goal is to increase their heart rate before their most difficult classes. When Paul Zientarski came up with the program, many teachers were initially skeptical. As the retired physical education coordinator, Zientarski was determined to get his students in shape physically and mentally. After six years, the results are impressive. On average, the students who take P.E. directly before reading comprehension read half-a-year ahead of those who opted out of the program and in math students who took P.E. before pre-algebra improved two to four times more than their peers on standardized tests.


“I like gym in the morning, how, like, it refreshes me. Like, I don’t doze off a lot. So, I focus more on to the teacher, more on the lessons, more on everything.” Nadlene Alnass, Student

“People are dropping P.E. because test scores are — are failing. That’s not the approach. That’s — that’s the exact opposite of what you need to do to be successful.” Paul Zientarski, Retired Physical Education Coordinator

Warm Up Questions

1.What is physical education?

2.Why is exercise important for your health?

3.What is the correlation between physical health and academic performance?

Discussion Questions

1.Do you think exercising before school will help you improve in your classes? Why or why not?

2.Besides exercising using cardio equipment, discuss other ways in which you can increase your heart rate.

Additional Resources

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