By Cathy Spaulding
Hilldale Elementary School rewards and motivates its students not with candy but with extra time in PE class, physical education teacher Beth Wells said.
“The kids love PE. They always have,” said Wells, whose classes involve climbing walls, Wii dancing and rolling around in hand-pedaled carts. But these classes aren’t just fun and games.
For the second year in a row, Hilldale Elementary is a Physical Fitness Challenge State Champion. The award is given each year to three schools in each state based on the number of winners of the Presidential Physical Fitness Award.
Hilldale won the 2012 award after seven times as many students won Presidential Physical Fitness Award than in the school year 2011, when the school received its first state championship. The Hilldale Board of Education recognized the PE program and winners at its meeting this week.
Wells said four elementary students won the Presidential Award for the 2011 school year, and 29 won the award for 2012. Hilldale also doubled the number of National Physical Fitness Award winners, from 87 in 2011 to 197 for 2012, she said. The school has 700 students.
Fifth-grader Drew Mills, said he had to work hard to win the Presidential Award.
“I did push-ups and sit-ups, about 50 of them,” Drew said. “And I ran a lot. I ran a mile. We always run a mile.”
Drew and other older elementary students often can be found helping out with the younger kids. That’s one of the rewards students receive, Wells said.
“We no longer give candy as a reward,” she said.
Instead, teachers give extra PE time as a reward for performance or reaching Accelerated Reader goals.
“Kids can come in and help with the lower grades during PE class.”
Older kids and parent volunteers help supervise the kids during their PE classes, Wells said.
Drew spent part of a Wednesday kindergarten PE class rolling around the floor in a hand-pedaled cart.
“It feels great helping them out,” he said.
Wells said the carts help develop upper body strength. Kids alternate different activities during the class. Other activities include a climbing wall and a “rail yard,” which students can walk on to build balance or jump over to develop heart health. Classes also include traditional activities.
“One thing I’ve noticed is that at first kids went, ‘Oh, we have to run a mile.’ Now it’s, ‘You can run a mile,’” Wells said. “We had a parent ask ‘Why can’t the girls do girls’ push-ups.’ It’s because girls can do boys push-ups.”
Wells cited other benefits.
“Studies have shown that when they are active in PE, when they leave the gym, they’re ready to go back to the classroom and learn,” she said. “That’s our goal — healthy minds, healthy bodies.”
Reach Cathy Spaulding at (918) 684-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.