Pinewood students get active after school

MARYSVILLE — Since the last week in September, Pinewood Elementary has been conducting an experiment in health and fitness, and to judge from the response of the more than 50 students who have chosen to turn out for the twice-weekly all-volunteer program, many of the school’s fourth- and fifth-graders are ready to embrace it.

Pinewood Elementary teachers Jason Fallihee and Dan Perkins meet with a number of fourth- and fifth-grade students at the playground after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays to split them up into two groups — one of which stays outside to run the track, with the other going into the gym to complete a circuit of more than a dozen exercise stations — with those two groups switching locations halfway through athletics sessions that last between half an hour to an hour each.

“The reason we started this was to emphasize health and fitness, rather than just sports,” said Fallihee, who’s traded titles from “PE teacher” to “health and fitness teacher.” “This is how we do PE during the day now too. We do a lot of muscular endurance and cardio work. We still include sports in our programs, but we want to expand personal fitness beyond that.”

Fallihee and Perkins both cited research which has linked increased athletic activity to improved academic performance.

“When kids are healthier and more active, they’re getting more oxygen to their brains,” Fallihee said. “Studies have shown this helps them do better on standardized tests.”

“In my classes, whenever my students have been sitting for a while, we stop whatever else we’ve been doing, get up and engage in about three minutes of physical activity,” Perkins said. “You can see such a sharp uptick in their ability to work and learn that it’s like they’ve just started the day again. There’s so much of a connection between physical and mental activity.”

As Pinewood students bounced balls, lifted weights, practiced calisthenics and raced through step-aerobics on Oct. 4, fourth-grade workout partners Maddy Grandbois and Trinity Watts explained the appeal of the program to them.

“It’s the most funnest activity at school,” Grandbois said. “You can just come and have fun. My favorite part is the weights.”

“I like exercising,” said Watts, who finds the balancing boards challenging but enjoyable. “It really gets you moving.”

Fifth-grade workout partners Collin Black and Connor Peterson both turned out for the program because they’re aiming to develop as athletes all around.

“I already play lots of sports, so I want to get better at them,” Peterson said.

“I play football and I love running,” Black said. “I like that, by working out after school, I’m getting even stronger.”

This fall session of after-school athletics at Pinewood is only slated to last six weeks, but Fallihee and Perkins expect it to return in the spring.

“If you don’t have good health, it doesn’t much matter what else is going on in your life,” Perkins said. “Who we’re really hoping to reach with this are the kids who aren’t already good at athletics. If a kid doesn’t consider themselves a runner, it’s a real victory when they can finish jogging a full mile. We want every kid to be able to identify themselves as a capable athlete. The Marysville community has already made great strides in emphasizing health and fitness, so we’re happy to be part of that.”




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