Move Your Way® Toolkit for Schools

This toolkit is for anyone working to encourage physical activity in a school setting — like physical education and health education teachers, classroom teachers, coaches, after-school program leaders, and school administrators. Others promoting student health and well-being — like school nurses and parent teacher associations (PTAs) — can also use the information in this toolkit to support their work. 

Want to learn about the Move Your Way campaign? Check out this short video

Browse this toolkit to:

Learn how physical activity benefits students — at school and beyond

Kids and teens need movement to grow healthy and strong. Regular physical activity strengthens muscles and bones, helps prevent health problems like diabetes and heart disease, and reduces symptoms of anxiety and depression. 

Physical activity also has clear benefits for life at school. For example, students who are physically active tend to:

  • Have better grades
  • Miss fewer school days
  • Have better focus in class 

Beyond that, physical activity in schools can help support school connectedness — students’ belief that peers and adults in the school support, value, and care about their well-being. School connectedness can make it less likely that students engage in risky behaviors like substance use and help improve students’ mental and physical health and well-being.

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MYW Dosage Graphic that reads: "How much physical activity do kids and teens need?" with additional information about the specific aerobic and muscle strengthening requirements.

Make a plan to get students moving

Whether you’re starting a school-wide physical activity initiative or you just want to provide students, parents, and caregivers with educational materials — it helps to make a plan. That way, you can be sure everybody is on the same page and working toward a clearly defined goal. Use these tips to plan your physical activity project:

  • Set clear, achievable goals. What are you trying to achieve with your efforts? It helps to be specific — instead of “Get students to be more active,” set clearly defined goals like “Get students to move for at least 10 minutes each day during recess.” 
  • Build support within your school. Who in your school community can support your physical activity project? Consider involving school leadership, PTA representatives, or other teachers. 
  • Involve students. Try to include students of all ages in the planning process — they can add an important perspective and voice. Students can also serve as “ambassadors” to promote physical activity and model healthy behaviors for their peers.
  • Keep accessibility top of mind. Make sure your physical activity project or initiative is accessible to everyone in the school community. For example, do you need to adapt activities to work for students with movement limitations or non-verbal communication styles? Or choose playground equipment suitable for students who use mobility devices? 
  • Find partners in your community. Don’t forget about the larger community outside of school — are there organizations or individuals who can support your physical activity efforts? Think local health departments, hospitals, or community organizations. Also consider partnerships that might help you better engage all students, like an organization that could donate adaptive equipment. Use this National Youth Sports Strategy (NYSS) Champions directory to find organizations in your area that focus on youth with disabilities.
  • Evaluate your progress. When trying a new strategy, it’s important to assess what’s working well — and what isn’t. Check in with school leadership and other teachers regularly: Have they noticed a difference in students’ activity levels? What problems are they experiencing? You can also use more formal evaluation measures like surveys. 

Want to learn more about planning a community-wide physical activity campaign? Check out the Move Your Way Community Playbook.

Move Your Way in the field: Building community partnerships

Move Your Way campaign pilot community Southern Nevada Health District (SNHD) partnered with the student wellness club at a local elementary school to plan and host a Move Your Way event for students. Students collaborated with their physical education teacher to create lesson plans focused on the Physical Activity Guidelines. After the student-led lesson, all students were encouraged to get active outside. Parents, faculty, and staff joined the students as they walked, ran, or skipped laps around the school. SNHD attended the event, offered more information about the campaign, and distributed Move Your Way materials to families. 

Step into action 

Now that you’ve made a plan, it’s time to put it into action. Try the strategies below to get students moving throughout the school day and beyond. And use Move Your Way’s engaging materials in English and Spanish to support your efforts!

Around school

Kids and teens spend a big chunk of their time at school — that’s why creating a school environment that encourages physical activity is so important. Start with these simple tips:

  • Show the benefits of getting active at a glance. Print the “60 Minutes” Poster for Kids and hang it in hallways, classrooms, and the gym.
  • Focus on fun. Getting physically active is a great way to build some play into the school day and enhance learning. Whether it’s playing active games or having a classroom dance party — just have fun with it!

In the classroom

Try these strategies to encourage physical activity in the classroom:

  • Take movement breaks. Getting up and moving together can get antsy students back on track and reduce disruptive behaviors. Try arm circles, jumping jacks, or running in place — and consider incorporating yoga and other mindfulness activities to help improve students’ focus and lower anxiety and stress.
  • Add activity to academics. Why not use movement to practice and reinforce academic lessons? For example, play a round of “beach ball spelling” — where students take turns calling out the letters of a word as they throw a beach ball to one another. Or you can set up movement-based learning stations so students can stand and walk around the classroom while completing tasks.
  • Get smart about getting active. Use the Fact Sheet for Kids to teach students the what, how, and why of physical activity — and send home a copy of the Fact Sheet for Parents.
  • Make a pledge. Print the Move Your Way Pledge Sheet and have students write down how they plan to get active. Then hang students’ pledge sheets up in the classroom. At the end of the week, ask students to share their experiences: Did they meet their physical activity goals? If not, how can the school community support them? 

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At recess

Recess is an opportunity for students to have unstructured playtime with their friends — and you can use this time to encourage them to get creative and have fun while getting active. Try these tips:

  • Call on young artists. Use chalk or paint to draw game boards or areas for activities like hopscotch on sidewalks or blacktops. This is also a great way to engage older students in creating something for their peers.
  • Promote active play. Offer a variety of games and activities so each child can find something they enjoy. And you don’t have to plan every activity yourself — let kids design and lead their own games to help them build leadership and social skills. If your budget allows, consider investing in play equipment like jump ropes, playground balls, or bean bag toss games to support different ways to play. 
  • Plan for bad weather days. Identify indoor spaces where students can get moving when it’s raining or too cold or hot to spend recess outside — like the gym, empty classrooms, or a spacious hallway. You might have to create a schedule to avoid overcrowding.
  • Get your community involved. Ask local businesses to donate new or gently used adaptive play equipment — or partner with nearby community centers, YMCAs, or gyms to provide access to indoor activity spaces.

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Avoid using physical activity to discipline students

Kids and teens are much more likely to get moving if they have positive associations with physical activity. That’s why it’s important not to use physical activity as a punishment (like having kids run laps) or take away opportunities for getting active (like not allowing students to go to recess).

During school events

Take advantage of school events — like open houses and back-to-school festivities — to educate parents, caregivers, and people in the community about the benefits of physical activity. Try these tips:

  • Set up shop. Decorate a table or booth with the Move Your Way posters for parents — and use them as conversation starters to talk with people about physical activity. You can also hand out the Fact Sheet for Kids and the Fact Sheet for Parents
  • Engage local partners. Local health departments, hospitals, or community organizations with a physical activity focus may be willing to set up a table and share educational materials — and even hand out goodies like water bottles, jump ropes, or balls.
  • Show (and tell). If you have multimedia equipment available, consider streaming the Move Your Way videos for families during the event. 
  • Get moving together. Incorporating movement breaks or active games into events can help parents and caregivers remember the joy of physical activity. Need inspiration? Watch this video showcasing accessible exercises.
  • Create a challenge! Many kids love a bit of friendly competition — and they love getting their adults involved. Set up a sack race, obstacle course, or a scavenger hunt and have kids compete against parents, caregivers, or teachers.

Use the Move Your Way teen video challenge to engage older students

Most young kids naturally want to move, but encouraging older middle school or high school students to get active can be tough. If you’re looking for a way to engage older students, consider a multimedia classroom project — like the Move Your Way teen video challenge! 

The Tips for Creating Your Own Move Your Way® Teen Video Fact Sheet [PDF - 805 KB] has everything teens need to get started, and they can watch the Move When You Can and Try Something Different videos for inspiration. Consider making it an assignment or an extra credit activity. Or make it a raffle — students who create a video get the chance to win a prize!

Want to learn more about making physical activity accessible for youth with disabilities?

Explore the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability’s educator webpage

Interested in customizing materials for your school? You can swap out photos or add your school’s logo to Move Your Way materials through the CDC State and Community Health Media Center. If you have questions about using Move Your Way materials, want to create your own, or would like help implementing physical activity strategies in your school, please contact ODPHP.

Share Move Your Way materials with parents and caregivers

One of the best ways to encourage physical activity outside school is to get families moving together. Getting active as a family not only helps kids and teens stay healthy — it also means everyone gets to reap the benefits of physical activity. The Move Your Way campaign has lots of resources to help families find activities that fit their lives and create healthy, sustainable routines. Try the strategies below to support parents and caregivers in getting the family active.

Hand out educational materials

You can print these materials and send them home with students — or hand them out at school events.

  • The Fact Sheet for Parents helps parents and caregivers understand what kinds of activity kids and teens need to stay healthy and offers tips for helping kids get active.
  • The Sports Fact Sheet for Parents helps parents and caregivers understand the benefits kids and teens can get from playing sports and offers tips to help them get their kids involved.
  • With the Pledge Sheet, parents can be role models for their kids by showing how they’ll get active and making a commitment to move more.

Promote physical activity in your newsletter, email, or blog

Use or adapt the content below to promote physical activity in your email outreach, newsletter, or blog. 

Subject: Get tips to get your kids moving

Body copy: 
It’s no secret that kids and teens need regular physical activity — it makes their bodies grow strong, it helps them stay at a healthy weight, and it can even help them focus better in the classroom. 

How much is enough? Kids and teens need at least 60 minutes of physical activity throughout the day. That includes a mix of heart-pumping movement like running, dancing, or jumping rope, plus activities that strengthen muscles and bones — like playing sports or climbing at the playground. Use this interactive tool to help you fit more activity into your kids’ day.

But the best way to encourage kids and teens to get active? Get the whole family moving so everyone can enjoy the benefits of physical activity!

Check out the Move Your Way campaign for actionable tips and resources to add more physical activity to your family’s routine. 

Promote Physical Activity Through Social Media 

Use Move Your Way sample messages, graphics, and GIFs to promote physical activity on your own or your school’s social media channels. You can adapt the messages to fit your needs!

Add Move Your Way to your website 

Want to make Move Your Way part of your website? Download the Move Your Way web badges and widget for an easy way to add physical activity resources to your site. 

  • With the Move Your Way Activity Planner web badge and widget, school staff, parents, caregivers, and other adults can use an interactive tool to help them build their own personalized weekly activity plan.
  • The Move Your Way Parent Interactive Graphic web badge links parents and caregivers to an interactive tool they can use to see how kids can fit in 60 minutes of activity a day.