Glee and wide-eyed enthusiasm are not typical descriptors of middle school students, but I can honestly say that’s what is seen on competition days. Five minutes of “fitness training” every class period has given most students the confidence and motivation to use their new skills to become class champions for the week. Even better, some participate to improve upon their personal best! When reluctant students state that they actually enjoyed competing I congratulate them for doing something outside their comfort zone. Having the students choose the events helps with “buy-in;” reflecting on what worked and didn’t strengthen critical thinking, persuasion, cooperation, and compromise which help improve the next iteration. Although many don’t like to complete the fitness homework log, I am frequently told about more time being spent being active than playing video games! Several students come into class excited for the “First5Fit!” workout, and the challenging behaviors have been reduced. On the days we have competitions, participation and performance on the weekly quiz increases for most students! This project has helped me as an educator as well as my own physical fitness and well-being. I have experienced growth in skills and confidence that I did not anticipate. Sharing the experience with my students has improved our relationship, which is key to student engagement. I look forward to continuing the practice as long as I am in the classroom!
As a veteran teacher working with students that have emotional and behavioral challenges, I always wanted to create a program that could impact students by developing healthy habits with skills that can be used throughout their lives to manage stress and maintain healthy bodies. When Covid shut everyone down in the spring, I knew that this needed to happen more than ever – my students were isolated and not engaging as they did in the classroom. I read Activate by Katherine Mills Hernandez this summer and was pleasantly surprised to find that much research has been done showing the positive impact movement has on learning – as a teacher, it’s logical to try something as simple as adding movement to improve student focus and success. Other research shows that exercise is beneficial for mental health as well. There was no way that I wasn’t going to add movement to my lessons and conduct my own “research.” How to convince the students became my challenge.THEN, I stumbled upon an email from Palm Beach Health about the Be Well PBC Mini-Grant! After the Mini-Grant Workshop, I felt confident enough to apply for my first grant, keeping my students in mind. The program idea involves students getting fit, creating obstacle courses at home, designing an obstacle course for school, and finally creating the course on-site so that students can compete for personal goals and bragging rights. At the end of July I was surprised to learn that $3,000 had been awarded for the idea! I was thrilled and wanted to order the fitness equipment for everyone to start getting stronger a.s.a.p., and was disappointed that the process was a little time consuming with the School District, BUT that turned out to be beneficial.Instead of students having the exercise gear for the first day of school, they got to design a logo for the materials and choose the items for purchase after a lesson on budgeting! While we waited for the items to arrive, we worked out for a few minutes every day in class, exploring different websites and videos. Student engagement grew as their skills improved!When the items arrived, they were eager to take them home and start using them. They are required to log 30 minutes of activity every day. I hold a virtual workout session three times per week! Almost every day someone tells me a story about something they are able to do now that they couldn’t a few months ago. Now that most have “bought into” fitness, we are going to start the fun part of designing the obstacle courses at home over the winter break, and then on campus in January and February.The process is taking longer than I envisioned, but the results so far are greater than I dreamed! This would not be possible without the BeWellPBC Mini-Grant!