EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 25, 2012

Exercising their bodies and their brains

Lawrence school adds physical activity, hours to boost student performance


He used “SPARK”, a book by psychiatrist Dr. John J. Ratey, as a guide for the program. In the book, Ratey explores how exercising re-energizes the brain for better performance and is a defense against depression, Attention Deficit Disorder, and addiction. One of the case studies is a fitness program in Naperville, Ill. The program helped 19,000 students in the school district become first in the “world of science.”

In addition to incorporating academics and exercise, the Fifth Grade Academy has contracted top-notch people to help the students.

Among them are Gino Gordon and Sherman Cowan.

Cowan, a stepping expert, is a resident director at Wellesley College, where he has worked since 1997. He has a bachelor’s degree in psychology and history from the State University of New York at Oswego, and a master’s degree in counseling psychology also from SUNY-Oswego. Cowan, a major in the Air National Guard, has been in the service for 27 years.

Gordon is a former two-time first-team All-Ivy League running back at Harvard University. As a senior, Gordon was co-recipient of the Asa S. Bushnell Cup honoring the Ivy League football Player of the Year.

Gordon, who is an associate teacher at South Lawrence East, said playing sports taught him many lessons including perseverance and discipline.

“I’m glad fitness is included with academics. It’s not one or the other, it’s all the same. It may be tough, but it’s all about perseverance, having fun while keeping the academic aspect,” Gordon said.

South Lawrence East is the first school in Lawrence to implement the extended school day integrating classroom learning and movement. Fifth-graders at the school were chosen because the middle school had been designated a Level 4 school which have been underperforming in achievement, student growth and the statewide MCAS test.

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