Worcester Schools Planning New Kids Fitness Program

BERLIN – School system officials are hoping a new physical education program will teach students the importance of staying active throughout their lives.

Starting this fall, students in grades three through nine will begin using the FitnessGram program in physical education class. Tamara Mills, the school system’s coordinator of health instruction, says the program aims to teach students the importance of leading active lifestyles.

“There is a shift in physical education instruction from sports team instruction to lifelong fitness,” Mills said, pointing out that most adults didn’t go out and play sports like football the way they did when they were children. “We know that at a certain age our physical activity level goes down. Our teachers struggle to make sure kids learn they need to stay physically active throughout their lives.”

FitnessGram, which is associated with the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, is currently being used by sixth-graders at Berlin Intermediate School. Based on the success of the program, Mills said it should be implemented in the fall for all of the county’s third- through ninth-graders.

According to Ryan Stout, physical education teacher at Berlin Intermediate, the online program allows him to personalize instruction and gives students the chance to set personal fitness goals. With their own login credentials, they’re even able to check their stats at home.

“It is the ultimate way to personalize instruction,” Stout said.

Though the program tests students’ aerobic capacity, flexibility, muscle strength and endurance four times a year, the assessments aren’t meant to affect their grades.

“We do not use this as a grading tool,” Stout said. “We just do it for the kids’ benefit. What we want to see is students improve.”

Mills said teaching students to be active at a young age was increasingly important, as 36 percent of the county’s residents were overweight and 29 percent considered obese.

She added that most children spent 220 minutes a day in front of a television.

“That’s a scary thought,” she said.

Because of that, educators are doing what they can to teach children to be active and exercise.

“We want to start that trend when kids are young,” she said.

Mills said that because FitnessGram is Internet based, officials ensured each student’s personal fitness data would be secure.

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.