By Steve Brandt

It’s a lot easier to be a leader among schools on fitness and health when the principal drops in front of students and gives them 20 pushups.

That’s the self-inflicted punishment that Ryan Gibbs (right) at Loring Community School uses when he forgets a student’s name more than twice.

It also helps to explain how the school’s students were motivated to win a statewide in-school nutrition and physical activity program worth $1,500 for the Victory neighborhood school.

The contest sponsored by the Midwest Dairy Council and National Football League has students grab a camera to capture students and staff in physical activities. The school’s list included such activities as snow angels, wheelbarrow races, building pyramids of six students, jumping jacks and tumbling.

That continues a traditional of brain-stimulating movement at the K-5 school. The school uses small bursts of activity to break up the day. When teachers sense that students may be in need of a break, instruction stops for “jamming minutes,” 60 seconds that promote movement that stimulates brains to focus, according to Gibbs. Teachers do that two or three times daily at least.

The school also uses exercise as a pre-testing stimulator for statewide standardized testing.

“When someone sits in one spot for a long period of time, sometimes they lose focus,” physical education teacher Nancy Duwenhoegger said. “It spurs the brain and the brain starts firing off.”

The entire school also signed a pledge to get active for 60 minutes of activity each day. This and other activities are planned by the school’s Wellness Council, a version of a student council that meets weekly with 23 students.

The prize money will allow the school to expand one of the school’s unusual features, a lending library of balls and other sports equipment that students may check out for a week at a time.