Brain breaks: Not just for kids

Brain breaks: Not just for kids

Many teachers are now incorporating Brain Breaks into the daily classroom routine. This is being done with good reason. There are numerous studies showing that regular activity improves not only fitness, but brain function too. When kids move more, they are more able to focus, learn and do well in the classroom. A 2013 report from the Institute of Medicine concluded that children who are more active “show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed and perform better on standardized academic tests than children who are less active.” By spending 3-5 minutes moving in the classroom, the next 45 will be much more effective for learning, which is a big pay-off for students and teachers.

Brain Breaks are often associated with younger students, but they are not just for elementary school. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “The benefits of periodic breaks in the academic day to optimize cognitive processing, applies equally to adolescents and to younger children.” Teenagers need brain breaks as much as the younger set. The truth is that people of all ages can benefit from brain breaks, as more and more studies document the dangerous health impacts of sitting too long.

The current activity guidelines from U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for children and adolescents is 60 minutes or more of physical activity daily, with most of the 60 minutes being moderate to vigorous. It is important to keep the activities enjoyable and offer a variety. As for adults, they should do at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity.

So, why let the kids have all of the fun? Your entire family can benefit from brain breaks and they do not have to limited to time at school or work. Make it an all-ages affair.

Here are some resources for Brain Breaks:

No computer needed:

  • Simon Says
  • Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
  • Go for a walk, play a game, run around the yard for time
  • Freeze Dance
  • Dance Party taking turns following the leader
  • Hop on one foot, jumping jacks, high knees, push-ups, etc.
  • Yoga poses
  • Make up your own moves, write them down and put them in a jar so when a brain break is needed, you can take turns picking one out!

Online brain breaks for the younger set:

For Older Kids/Adults:

For Teachers and Parents:

The 100 Acre Woods

The 100 Acre Woods

Tucked away off of Route 104 in Fairfax, lies the 100 Acre Woods. Yes, the landscape is as magical as the name makes it sound. It is well worth the drive and is a perfect opportunity to explore nature right in our backyards.

Left to the Town in the 1970’s, the land was left unmanaged until 2008, when the Town worked with the County Forester to start logging the woods. It was around this time that the Town decided to explore developing it for recreational uses. Through several years of management, trail work from the VT Youth Conservation Corps and stewardship from nearby landowner, Mike Cain, the Forest has become a beautiful place to explore.

Mike Cain graciously offered to lead RiseVT’ers on a hike along one of the established trails in the Forest.

Easy to reach, head to 2757 Main Street and turn down what looks like a driveway. A small parking area is available on the right for 2-3 cars. After parking, continue along the gravel road until you see the trail entrance on your right. The trail is a gentle incline into the forest. We followed the white blazes, as we made a loop up and into the forest. This is a hike suitable for all ages. It can also be an excellent route for snowshoes or skiers in the winter.

Mike Cain, Steward of the 100 Acre Woods, leads a hike for a Fall Show Up

The Recreation Department hopes to continue to improve the area, with plans for signage and further trail development in the future.

What: The 100 Acre Woods

Where: 2757 Main Street, Fairfax, VT. Turn down the driveway; small parking lot is on the right. Trail entrance further down on the right.

When: Year Round Access



Small businesses make a big impact

Small businesses make a big impact

By proclamation, St. Albans City is now officially a Breast-feeding Friendly City. St. Albans is one of only a handful of towns across the U.S. with such a designation. This is something to be celebrated. Not only for what it reflects as a community value, but also for the collaboration that made this proclamation possible. It was a result of public and private partnerships all aiming for a healthier community.

RiseVT works with all aspects of our community, but this project initially came out of collaboration with small businesses. We partner with the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) to designate businesses as Breast-feeding Friendly Employers. This demonstrates a business’s commitment to enable breast-feeding employees to have access to workplace conditions to support their needs, thus positively impacting the employee’s health and their child’s.

While working with Rail City Market on their Breast-feeding Friendly Employer designation, Rail City Market offered to allow the public to come in and use their designated space. This sparked an idea of creating Breast-feeding Friendly Places throughout the City. All that would be required is a welcoming attitude towards breast-feeding and a comfortable chair.

Nancy Hudak, owner of Rail City Market, says,

“Rail City Market has been a breastfeeding friendly place for over 30 years so this is nothing new for us. I can’t imagine why anyone would discourage a mother from nourishing their infant when the need arises. We are happy to know that St. Albans City is making this proclamation of being a Breastfeeding Friendly City.”

The idea was presented at the quarterly RiseVT Small Business Umbrella meeting.This group is comprised of small businesses, from one to 50 employees, which are interested in working with RiseVT on employee wellness.The group was enthusiastic about the prospect of small businesses making a big impact in community health.

From there, the vision of Breast-feeding Friendly City grew. Two years ago, RiseVT had worked with the City and Town to provide Breast-feeding Friendly signs for the parks. Northwestern Medical Center is a designated Baby-Friendly Hospital. Franklin County is a leader in the number of Breast-feeding Friendly Employers, with 47 participating. It was a natural progression.

RiseVT aims to collaborate to improve our communities’ health and amplify what is already happening. Rachael Gregory, public health nutritionist at VDH says,

“Vermont can be commended for ranking fourth in the U.S. for exclusive breast-feeding at six months, with 31 percent of infants currently meeting this goal. However, it is estimated that if 80 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breast-feed exclusively for six months, the United States would save $10.5 billion annually from reduced direct medical and indirect costs and the cost of premature death. We know that women are 2.5 times more likely to breast-feed their babies where it is protected, promoted, and supported.”

Next time you walk downtown, look for the “Breast-feeding Friendly Place” sign in the window of the following shops:

• Build A Bagel

• Catalyst Coffee Bar

• Chamber of Commerce

• Champlain Valley Area Health Education Center

• Duke’s Fitness

• Franklin County Caring Communities

• Rail City Market

• Main Street Graphics

• Northwestern Medical Center

• ReMax Destinations

• St. Albans City Hall

• Traveled Cup

• What a Yarn

If you would like your own sign, please reach out to Jessica Purvis Frost, RiseVT wellness specialist at

Maple Leaf Montessori Shines Gold

Maple Leaf Montessori Shines Gold

By Jessica Purvis Frost, RiseVT Wellness Specialist

Every year schools have the opportunity to work with RiseVT to improve their wellness for staff and students. RiseVT engaged with many schools throughout Franklin and Grand Isle Counties in 2016-17, but one rose to the Gold level and received the $1,500.00 grant money that goes along with such a stellar status. Maple Leaf Montessori (MLM) is a school where wellness and health is a priority and it is incorporated into the students’ and teacher’s daily routine and learning.

Carrie Clow, the lead teacher at MLM, is a driving force that keeps health at the forefront of the school. She says, “I feel it’s important to educate preschoolers about healthy choices during their absorbent years, so they will develop lifelong healthy habits. I also want to support the important connection between good health and success in school.”

What did they do to reach this level:

  • MLM became a Breastfeeding Friendly Employer.
  • They formalized Walk to School days and made Walking Wednesdays a weekly occurrence, and informally a parent volunteered daily to walk students from their nearby homes.
  • They emphasize healthy snacks and have a strict healthy snack policy that parents sign, when it comes to what students can bring into the classroom to eat and/or share.
    • No added sugar is allowed in snacks
    • No prepacked snacks are allowed
    • Try to use reusable containers
  • Students have several opportunities for recess throughout the day and they often incorporate active field trips.
  • Parents regularly hold after school playgroups to allow kids even more opportunity for unstructured movement.
  • The school participates in community activities, such as food drives and the St. Patty’s Day parade.
  • They have a garden plot for the school, which they use to prepare snacks and donate extra produce to Martha’s Kitchen.
  • They compost.
  • They have regular “Brain Breaks” several times a day within the classroom.
  • The class completed the “Classroom Scorecard” activities and became a Gold Classroom.
  • The school established a Wellness Committee with a vision and a plan for the future.
  • Staff is provided wellness opportunities throughout the year.

Every school has an opportunity to work with RiseVT to be a GOLD school. The practices that are implemented at each school are individualized and intended to fit your school’s culture. So, what Maple Leaf Montessori decided to do may not look the same at another school.

RiseVT has Wellness Specialist working throughout Franklin and Grand Isle counties. Please reach out to to see how your school or classroom can get involved. Also, feel free to look over the Scorecards at to see the best practices that RiseVT uses to work with a school.

RiseVT’s Award Winning Schools and Teachers for 2016/17

RiseVT’s Award Winning Schools and Teachers for 2016/17

RiseVT is wrapping up another successful school year of working with local schools in Franklin and Grand Isle counties. RiseVT works with schools and directly with classroom teachers who want to incorporate healthier practices into their classrooms. As a result, both schools and classrooms can receive a BRONZE, SILVER or GOLD status by the end of the school year. All of our scorecards are available online at for you to check out.

To be a GOLD level school, a school must have both practices and policies that support all aspects of student wellness, including physical activity, health education, farm to school programming, healthy food practices, staff wellness participation, Safe Routes to Schools events, a functioning Wellness Committee and classroom participation in RiseVT.

GOLD level classrooms incorporate physical activity and healthy nutrition into the classroom all year. They go one step beyond, by creating policies around healthy foods in the classroom, encouraging physical activity and never withholding physical activity as a punishment. They also work with RiseVT staff to bring healthy educational opportunities into the classroom.

Silver level schools receive $500 in Wellness Rewards and Gold schools receive an additional $1000.

This year one school made it to GOLD: Maple Leaf Montessori!

The year’s SILVER schools are:

  • Alburgh Community Center
  • Folsom Educational and Community Center
  • Sheldon Elementary School

The GOLD classrooms are:

  • Alburgh Community Center:
    • Ms. Tefts – Pre-K
    • Ms. Dragoon – K
    • Ms. Dobson – 3rd
  • Folsom Educational and Community Center:
    • Ms. Bessette – 3rd
    • Ms. Couture – K
    • Ms. Myler – 1st
    • Ms. Degree – 2nd
  • Georgia Elementary and Middle School:
    • Ms. Sue Tougas – K
    • Ms. Linda Rowell – K
    • Ms. Erin Young – 3rd
    • Ms. Heather Sikorsky – 3rd
    • Ms. Stacey Sullivan – 3rd
  • Maple Leaf Montessori:
    • Ms. Carrie Clow – Pre-K/K
  • Sheldon Elementary School:
    • Ms. Farrar – K
    • Ms. Regan – K
    • Ms. Russell – 1st
    • Ms. Derry – 1st
    • Ms. Bourdeau – 5/6
  • Albans Town Educational Center:
    • Ms. Jennifer Callahan – K
  • Swanton Elementary School:
    • Ms. DiVice – 2nd
    • Ms. Ramseyer – 2nd
    • Ms. Mitchell – 6th

The SILVER classrooms are:

  • Alburgh Community Center:
    • Mr. Wolynec – 7th
    • Ms. LaBounty – 7th
  • BFA – Fairfax:
    • Ms. Jennifer Kalbfleisch – K
  • Folsom Educational and Community Center:
    • Miss Hoag – 4th
  • Georgia Elementary and Middle School:
    • Ms. Nan Mildrum – 7th

BRONZE Classrooms:

  • Alburgh Community Center:
    • Mr. Flax – 1 / 2
    • Mr. Herz – 4th
    • Ms. Belanger – 5th
    • Ms. LaBounty – 8th
  • Sheldon Elementary School:
    • Ms. Cioffi – 2nd
  • Albans City School:
    • Ms. Tess Bashaw – 4/5/6
  • Albans Town Educational Center:
    • Ms. Kate Pelkey – K

Would you like your school or classroom to be a part of RiseVT? Please reach out to our team at

Photo:Ms. Heather Sikorsky’s 3rd grade class at Georgia Elementary & Middle School celebrated Valentine’s Day with all healthy snacks. They made an effort to be healthy all year long. This is from their class:

“We sent information home about our healthy celebrations and work with Rise VT this year. These are pictures from our Valentine’s Day party. We opted for fruits, veggies, and popcorn. We had juice and water to drink. We also decided to forgo candy valentines and instead went with other options like pencils, small toys, and good old-fashioned handmade cards!”