September 2019
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STEM Fitness Debuts at Stewart

The fourth and fifth grade students at Stewart Elementary School are getting their first taste of the new STEM curriculum – in the gymnasium, of all places!

“The STEM program is really about making science, technology, engineering and mathematics relevant in today’s world,” says Stewart Principal Gregory Egnor. “Our gym teachers are taking a leading role in this. The new gym program is making technology relevant to the children’s fitness needs.”

Physical education teachers Steve White and Justin Miller have incorporated technology into a new exercise room just off the gymnasium, where students take part in aerobic exercise for half of their gym period, using the Wii Fit video game system. The other 23 minutes of class is spent in the gymnasium, where they can participate in more traditional games and sports. Students can easily burn between 200 and 250 calories during the aerobic exercise portion of gym class, according to Mr. White.

Currently, the fourth- and fifth-graders are using the Dance Dance Revolution game, mimicking dance moves seen on a television screen. Boys and girls are separated for gym, eliminating the awkwardness the tweens may feel when trying out dance moves in a co-ed setting. Soon, they will be participating in sports activities offered by the Wii Fit system, like jogging, rowing and yoga. “So many of the students enjoy playing video games,” Mr. White says. “We thought, ‘Why fight it?’ Let’s embrace it. Our hope is that the kids who have the Wii system at home will do more of these physical fitness activities on their own time.”

Mr. White and Mr. Miller had wanted to offer an alternative to the traditional kickball-and-volleyball type of gym class for a while. The school district’s restructuring of the elementary schools provided the perfect opportunity.
Superintendent Shannon Wagner saw the value in the exercise room concept. “Mrs. Wagner has been extremely supportive of the fitness center, and has been very helpful in getting it rolling,” Mr. White says.
The gymnasium is seeing some upgrades, with the addition of a forty-foot wide horizontal climbing wall, and suspension trainer straps. A dozen of these strap sets will be mounted on the gym’s walls, where students can do strength training exercises using their body weight and gravity, according to Mr. Miller. “We’re promoting a lifetime of fitness, by engaging kids in what they’re interested in,” Mr. Miller says. “We’re getting them active in multiple ways.”

The teachers are revamping the health curriculum, as well, to promote a healthy lifestyle while using STEM principles. “To make our health classes more meaningful, we will be having the students (along with their family) create and use a healthy lifestyle food and exercise plan,” Mr. Miller says. The students will research healthy meals, recording calories and ingredients for their menu choices. They also will be using math skills as they plan the menus to help make these healthy meals affordable and cost effective.

Soon, the STEM program at Stewart will include the National Geographic science program, Engineering is Elementary, a new wireless laptop lab in the library, a designated engineering lab, mathematics lab and two science labs. “Students need to be technologically proficient in today’s world,” Mr. Egnor says. “We’re teaching them how to use technology to take care of themselves.”

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