Fitness in Education: The Most Important Lesson

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For many years, Physical Education wrongfully took a back-seat to the “serious” academic subjects. Teachers and students alike were more concerned with math or history class, on passing state exams or getting a good SAT score. Thankfully, in recent years that paradigm has shifted a bit. We’ve finally begun to realize a fundamental fact of life: If you don’t learn how to take care of your body and mind through fitness, nutrition, and mental wellness, it really doesn’t matter what else you learn in school. Don’t get us wrong, basic algebra and proper grammar are hugely important lessons learned for a successful life after schooling. BUT – learning how to care for your body may be the most important lesson of all. With the right curriculum, we can give students the tools needed to live a long, mentally and physically healthy life, no matter what path they take. Just like any other subject, teaching fitness is no easy task. It’s not as simple as “Go run.” PE teachers must accomodate a large number of kids with varying physical abilities, motivate students to give their best effort each day, all while working to ensure proper technique and safety. It’s an endeavor that is challenging for even the most knowledgeable of teachers. How can one teacher, or one department, tackle all of these issues at once? Paul Heusinkvelt, Strength and Conditioning teacher at Overton High School in Nebraska, has done just that. In the last few years, Paul has used PLT4M to successfully create an efficient, effective, and engaging fitness program for ALL of his high school students. Kids are involved in a holistic fitness curriculum from grades 8 through 12, and it’s yielded impressive results.
“My goal was to change my students’ mindset. Fitness class isn’t just about lifting heavy weights, it’s about developing a holistic understanding of how to improve your mind and body. From basic strength, to conditioning, to mobility and mental clarity. It’s about self improvement.”
The driving philosophy behind Paul’s curriculum is consistency and intentional progression. For him, the number one priority is teaching and establishing proper technique in everything they do. It requires a common language and a well thought-out plan, backed by PLT4M’s teaching videos and progressive programs. Paul starts by offering a “Lifting Camp” every summer for Junior High, giving students an opportunity to begin the process of developing a basic understanding of fitness principles and movements. Then, during their 8th grade year, students are placed into PLT4M’s Intro To Weight Training Program. Five days a week, students access their personalized instructional programs in groups via the PLT4M App’s “Rack View” on weight room iPads.
“The change has been tremendous. From actual squat depth and movement mechanics to the basic understanding of fitness concepts, students have improved dramatically.”
As students begin to show movement competency with consistency, he can then move them to more advanced programs. The flexibility of PLT4M’s scheduling tool allows for different students to be on different programs simultaneously, working with autonomy. How does Heusinkvelt manage to get his students to sweat it out each and every day? The key is motivation through engagement and competition. His programs require input from the students on a regular basis. He continually assesses students on various metrics, from strength to conditioning to mobility. PLT4M’s worksets, test logging, and progressive programs get the kids to compete with each other and more importantly, themselves. Paul then ties progress into grading. With a click he can set guidelines and run reports that outline student activity and results. Add that to daily attendance tracking and effort grades and he has everything he needs to keep the kids engaged on a daily basis.
“I used to have to use a clock to keep kids engaged and working. Nowadays, kids are self-motivated and engaged in the process, they just keep working on their own. It’s incredible.”
At Overton, the daily workout, competition, and progress has engaged students all by itself. Paul has created an atmosphere in which students are owning their Fitness and setting themselves up for a long, healthy life!

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