Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

First Advisor

Dr. Michaela A. Schenkelberg


Purpose: To describe youth physical activity (PA) and participation in organized activities within school systems adopting different organizational structures. Design: Cross-sectional case-study of the Wellscapes Project with baseline data from Wave 1 (Fall 2018) and Wave 2 (Fall 2021). Setting: Four rural Midwestern communities. Sample: A total of 507 fourth, fifth, and sixth graders participated and were used in analyses (n = 156 fourth graders; n =189 fifth graders; n = 162 sixth graders). Two communities followed an elementary school model. The other two communities followed a middle school model. Measures: Students completed the Youth Activity Profile (YAP), an online 15-item selfreport PA questionnaire. Organized activity participation was determined using supplemental National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) survey questions. School administrators provided session amount and duration of physical education (PE) and recess per week for each grade.

Analysis: In-school YAP items were aggregated to estimate in-school moderate-tovigorous physical activity (MVPA) using calibrated algorithms. Administrator-reported PE and recess sessions and duration were summarized. Community and grade, and the interaction between the two on in-school MVPA outcomes and participation (“yes”, “no”) in each organized activity was analyzed using the GLIMMIX procedure. Gender and race/ethnicity were included as covariates. Results: Session and duration of PE and recess was the same regardless of grade in an elementary model but differed across grade in a middle school model. Sixth graders had a lower frequency of reporting participation in classroom breaks compared to 5th grade across all communities. Regardless of grade, Community 1 reported the highest in-school MVPA (p<0.0001), and Community 3 reported the lowest levels of in-school MVPA (p<0.0001). After-school program, sport, club, and other organized activity participation varied within and between communities. Conclusion: Among youth attending different school models, differences in organizational structures were present, in-school MVPA was higher for students in an elementary model, and organized activity participation varied by community and grade. Researching these differences with a larger sample size may aid in better understanding the influence of school structure on PA during childhood and adolescence.


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Available for download on Wednesday, May 01, 2024