It isn't your mom's physical education class anymore.
There still may be balls tossed to and fro, lots of running around the track, calisthenics, basketball and volleyball, of course, but the whole philosophy of "gym class" has taken a new direction.
It's a lot about fitness and lifestyle.
EVAN BEVINS The Marietta Times
Steve Peterson, with Minnesota-based Everlast Climbing Industries, attaches a piece to the climbing wall at Washington Elementary School Friday. The wall was paid for with a federal Physical Education Program grant.
Mom didn't have a climbing wall, for example, like the kids at Washington Elementary School will this year.
"There's a new movement and focus in physical education that has more to do with fitness for life," said Harmar Elementary Principal Cheryl Cook. "It's all integrated with an understanding of how the body works and the brain's influence."
Motion enhances learning, improves alertness and behavior and reduces the incidence of childhood obesity, experts believe.
About the P.E.P. Grant:
It means: Physical Education Program.
Writer: Marietta Family YMCA, Al Miller, director.
Beneficiary: Washington, Harmar, Putnam and Phillips elementaries.
Funding -$250,000 (2008), $125,000 (2009) and $90,000 (2010).
Source: U.S. Department of Education.
"It ties into proper nutrition and understanding just how the body works," Cook said.
Marietta elementary school children have physical education classes in two-week cycles, shared with art and music.
"When you have a specific curriculum with designated learning concepts, you want the kids there every day for a specified time period," Cook said. "This is working well for us."
Ideally, children would have PE for a period every day, but time in the schedule and gym space don't work. The two-week block is a good compromise, she said.
Cook is excited about the three-year grant, which was written by Marietta Family YMCA and director Al Miller.
"It's been fantastic," she said. "We've gotten such a variety of things. All last year, equipment just kept coming. Our teachers also have gotten exposure to nationally known experts through special training."
Miller said the grant has come to Marietta at a "crucial time."
"The Department of Education knows there is a link between physical education and academic success, along with reduced behavior problems and increased attendance," he said.
For Miller, the biggest benefit of the new physical education philosophy is the impact on overweight and obese children.
"In this county, 48 percent of children are considered overweight or obese," he said. "This is nearly half our kids. The whole idea of this grant is to do something about obesity."
Miller said movement is important to both young and old and developing healthy movement habits sets a life-long pattern.
"Whether it's just walking, driving a car, getting out of a chair, getting groceries, working in the yard, it all depends upon movement," he said. "If we encourage kids at a young age to remain active, they can build a healthy, life long lifestyle."
Mel Lockhart teaches physical education at Harmar and Washington elementaries and Marietta Middle School. She was PE teacher at Marietta High School nine years before going to Harmar last year -the first year of the P.E.P. grant.
"I cannot thank Al Miller enough. The grant was like Christmas in July," Lockhart said. "For the primary students (kindergarten through second grade), we have roller racer scooters, which teach about movement and space. This activity also builds muscle stability and arm strength."
A climbing wall, installed Friday at Washington School, will improve hand-eye coordination, help build cardiovascular strength and improve alertness, according to Miller.
Roller skates are utilized in the elementary schools to help balance, coordination, muscle tone and teach movement through space.
"If you could give kids a pill to enhance academic success, reduce behavior problems, increase attendance, would you not do it?" Miller said. "We've got it. It's exercise."