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Physical Education on Call

When nearly one in three U.S. children is overweight or obese, schools know the importance of providing a physical education program that motivates kids to stay active.

Although most Delaware Valley public schools use full-time teachers to meet state phys ed requirements, many preschools and a few private schools outsource it.  Using outside providers allows schools to provide a phys ed program without maintaining equipment, staff or sometimes even space in the school.

Area public and private schools alike sometimes use outside providers to expose students to unconventional sports or inspiring sports figures.

Mobile Programs

At Kid Academy Learning Center in Sewell, NJ, director Debra Simmons says the children watch all week for a bright green bus playing carnival sounds to arrive. The Fun Bus, which operates out of Gloucester County, NJ and Lower Bucks, PA, arrives ready for kids to climb aboard and jump on trampolines, swing on bars, balance on beams and tumble on mats. The bus can accommodate up to 15 children younger than age 8 at one time.

For schools with adequate space, JumpBunch, a mobile sports and fitness provider with locations in northern Delaware and South Jersey, will provide the equipment, staff and curriculum. JumpBunch offers students younger than age 12 a fun introduction to a variety of sports.

Damon Hopkins, co-owner of JumpBunch in northern Delaware, says, “Parents appreciate our program in the schools because it means they don’t have to take their kids somewhere extra in the evening or on the weekend for them to get active.”

Unconventional Alternatives

Schools often focus on popular sports and activities, but exposing students to less conventional sports may help kids find a fitness alternative, if they haven’t warmed to more mainstream sports.

When athletes and teachers of unusual sports offer an informational assembly, after-school program or a weekly visit to the physical education classroom, some children discover an interest that they maintain for many years.

“Kids who may not be good at traditional team sports may be good at fencing,” says Maitre d’Armes Mark L. Masters, program director at The Fencing Academy of Philadelphia, which works with children ages 8 to 17.

“Children can be good at fencing even if they aren’t the fastest or don’t have great motor skills because fencing requires many different skills and every movement is learned and drilled in practice,”he says.

Energizing Special Events

Schools also use innovative sports and fitness enrichment providers to treat students to a day of fun and fitness every few months at a field day or another special event.

Lower Salford Elementary School in Lower Salford, PA kicked off a recent field day with Rene Bibaud, a five-time rope-jumping world champion, ESPN commentator and former artist and coach with Cirque Du Soleil. Bibaud, the star of Ropeworks by Rene, failed to make her elementary school’s jump rope team at age 10. Today, she shares her story of how she bounced back from that early defeat to become a world champion while introducing kids to the fun of jumping rope.

“She shared her personal story of setting a goal as a child to be the best jump roper that she could possibly be,” says Jennifer Kling, teacher at Lower Salford Elementary School. “This involved her practicing and working towards her goal while keeping in mind that failure was a part of getting to that goal and failure doesn’t stop a person.”

After the all-school assembly, Bibaud hosted a rope-jumping station for the students to visit in smaller groups throughout the day.

She uses special techniques to get nearly everyone jumping rope.

“I’ve had kids with all kinds of disabilities, very young students, cool high school kids and even administrators having success and having fun,” she says. “What happens through this surprising success is an opportunity to emphasize how important the willingness to try new activities is.”

Susan Stopper is a contributing writer to MetroKids.

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