By the time the first bell rings at Jason Lee Middle School every morning, seventh grader Lamin Jatta has already spent an hour in class — one that requires him to wear a life vest and hold a paddle.

Lamin, 12, is part of the school’s first ecokayaking class, a program that combines fitness and education to improve student achievement.

“I’ve learned how to paddle, turn and tip over,” Lamin said. The latter was done in a pool at Stadium High School during the first week of training in September.

The free program is a partnership between Tacoma Public Schools, Metro Parks Tacoma and the Foss Waterway Seaport. It was the brainchild of Jason Lee principal Christine Brandt.

The nine-week class is part of the school’s Thrive program, which maintains that morning exercise makes young minds more attentive and conducive to learning.

The partnership, Brandt said, makes the program affordable and exposes kids to an environment they could never experience on campus.“We’ve just taken our science class and moved it to Foss Waterway,” she said. “It’s that real life science and learning.”

Read more in The News Tribune.