Weekly Feature



2007-10-31 / Education

New phys ed program getting students excited about staying in shape

Sweet Home Middle School
by SHAWN ARRAJJ Intern

Instructor Jeremy Murphy shows Sweet Home Middle School eighth grade students how the new electronic wall unit charts their progress on exercise bicycles. The new fitness center was part of an extensive renovation of the Maple Road school. Photos by Joe Eberle Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Instructor Jeremy Murphy shows Sweet Home Middle School eighth grade students how the new electronic wall unit charts their progress on exercise bicycles. The new fitness center was part of an extensive renovation of the Maple Road school. Photos by Joe Eberle Purchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com A team of health and physical fitness instructors at Sweet Home Middle School recently developed a new program that has become a part of a unique curriculum.

With a collection of new high-tech equipment, the staff hopes to see this program change the way students view physical education today.

"We want to try to break the mold of what physical education is about now," said Jeremy Murphy, a physical education teacher at Sweet Home and one of the six members of the team that researched and developed this project.

Murphy noted the popularity of video games and how it has led to a lack of activity in children.

The new facilities at Sweet Home Middle build off the popularity by incorporating video games into the physical activity.

Carrissa Turner, left, and Yibbelle Caminero work out on the step unit. Carrissa Turner, left, and Yibbelle Caminero work out on the step unit. "We're taking the things that got (kids) on the couch and are using them to get them off the couch," Murphy said.

The cutting-edge equipment at the school includes a set of dance pads for the game Dance Dance Revolution, which requires players to dance along to patterns on a screen.

Also part of the program are an interactive sports wall that responds to students' actions with various lights and sounds and two pods of exercise bikes that are hooked up to a Playstation racing game so "the kids are actually racing on a screen, instead of just pumping away," according to Murphy.

"We're really unique in that we're the only ones to have all the technology under one roof."

About two years ago, the team of health and PE teachers behind this project began to research what types of programs were available. The district had set aside a sum of money to go toward the improvement of schools.

In addition to Murphy, the staff includes Diana Calandra, Kathryn Neelon, Dawn Kauderer Krumer, Paul Strefeler and David Graham.

"The whole staff really worked to make this happen," said Murphy. "Without them, we would not be where we are now."

Murphy also appreciated the support the staff received from Douglas Galli, president of the Sweet Home Board of Education, and Geoffrey Hicks, district superintendent.

Murphy, who coaches lacrosse and soccer at Sweet Home Middle, realizes the importance of getting children into the habit of maintaining good health at an early age.

"Kids today have a much higher rate of obesity, especially in Erie County," he said. Erie County has one of the highest rates of heart disease in the country.

"We want to add to the excitement that comes with (these new technologies) and also add to the desire for fitness. In a way, we're tricking kids into actually liking physical education," said Murphy, "and we're really getting them stimulated."

The facilities are used during gym classes throughout the day and are also open for use before and after school.

According to Murphy, the students are so excited that they are running down the halls to get there.

"Parents are glad to hear this," he said. "We knew it would be great; we didn't realize how great."

Murphy also notes another benefit of instilling fitness into the lives of Sweet Home students.

"Fit kids do better in the classroom. Studies show that fit kids tend to score higher. They have more energy to stay focused," he said.

The staff is hoping the new fitness program becomes a larger and larger portion of the curriculum as it gains popularity.

"We're definitely passionate about it," said Murphy.

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