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Boosting Learning Through Play for Students of All Ages

When it comes to learning, it turns out recess may be an important element, as exercise helps increase cognitive function. At Quest Charter Academy in Taylor, Michigan, a partner school of National Heritage Academies (NHA), a new initiative is underway to help get students moving. The school’s Student Wellness Team has joined forces with Communities in Schools (CIS) to give recess and outdoor activities a boost. The goal is to bring more exercise and fun into the lives of students through play.

"Communities in Schools got a grant called Student Voices Healthy Choices. It required positive changes in schools, leading us to form a student wellness team,” explained Stephanie Young, the CIS Site Coordinator at Quest. “Our team brainstormed ideas, focusing on promoting physical activity among students."

This initiative comes at a crucial time. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), children ages 5-17 should engage in at least 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity each day. Regular exercise not only reduces symptoms of depression and anxiety but also improves cognitive functions such as thinking, learning, and judgment.

Quest students posing by four square court

Eighth-grade student Cameron Cobb, a member of the Student Wellness Team, explained the group's decision-making process when it came to the project. "Everyone had unique ideas. We surveyed students, interviewed the principal, and narrowed down our options."

After a lot of research and debate, the team decided to transform the school blacktop with permanent games. "We painted activities like Four Square, hopscotch, and football," explained Young. "These activities provide easy ways for student to get physical exercise during recess and free time." 

Color Rush activity on blacktop

Some of the other games include Color Rush, a racetrack, and Flower Jump, which are great for students of all ages. Cobb shared, "Color Rush is inspired by a game on Roblox. It’s a bunch of different colored hexagons on the ground, and when someone yells out a color, everyone has to run to it. If you’re too slow, you’re out.”

When members of the Student Wellness Team presented their plan, they shared why the project was so important for students. “Students can get overwhelmed at school, especially middle schoolers. Having a space outside for physical activities would benefit all students, giving them fresh air and a way to release excess energy.”

Game on blacktop outside of Quest Charter Academy

The project's impact extends beyond physical health. Young emphasized the link between physical activity and mental well-being: "Exercise boosts serotonin levels, benefiting both physical and mental health. It enhances focus and reduces stress, crucial for academic success."

Counselor Amy Thompson, MA, LPC, NCC also shared insights on the importance of daily exercise. “A surprising fact about the correlation between physical activity and mental health is the concept of ‘brain boosts’ from exercise. Research shows that engaging in physical activity can improve cognitive function and academic performance.”

Quest students playing four square

Thompson recommended these tips for incorporating physical activity into your child’s life:
  • Find activities they enjoy.
  • Set achievable goals.
  • Make physical activity a social activity by exercising with friends or family.
Whether it’s jumping, running, or simply moving, the students at Quest Charter Academy hope the entire school will enjoy their new blacktop games, burn energy, and return to class ready to learn.

Congratulations to everyone involved in such an exciting project! 

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About Quest Charter Academy
Quest Charter Academy is a tuition-free, public charter school in Taylor, Michigan, serving students in kindergarten through eighth grade. It is part of the National Heritage Academies network, which includes more than 100 tuition-free, public charter schools serving more than 65,000 students in kindergarten through 12th grade across nine states. For more information, visit

Visit Quest Charter Academy's blog to read more stories like this.