Elementary school students roll toward fitness
The sixth-grade students arrived at PE cool as cucumbers.
They were full of energy as they grabbed their roller skates and began putting them on -- talking with friends all the while.
But after about 30 minutes of skating it was a different story. The children were red-faced as they braked to a stop, and as they took off their skates, quiet.
Clearly, all had had a good workout.
Which is exactly what their physical education teacher, Ursula Kissinger, had planned.
"They were on skates about 25 to 30 minutes, and they had a good sweat going," Kissinger said. "That's the whole idea."
Tonganoxie Elementary School rented the skates at $5 per student per day, with the school paying $2.50 and each student paying $2.50. The skates' wheels are made so that they can be used on wood gym floors. Although this year only fifth- and sixth-graders participated in the program, Kissinger hopes to add fourth grade next year.
The students seemed to enjoy the week on wheels.
Abby Eisman said, "It's really fun to do the limbo, but you have to learn how to stop. ... If you don't then you will run into the wall."
And Ali George said the relays were fun, adding, "Especially when you go backwards but not when you fall down."
Andie Jeannin also enjoyed the week.
"Roller skating is really fun, and we learned how to skate backwards," Andie said.
Kissinger noted today's nationwide focus on the growing prevalence of childhood obesity, which, along with inactivity, is said to contribute to the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
In her classes, she strives to get the children moving, and the weeklong course on roller skating was a good way to do it.
"Fitness is fun, but it's not just about sports," Kissinger said. "It's about all kinds of physical activities. Roller skating is one of the top-rated activities for cardio respiratory endurance, and it enhances balance, coordination and motor skills."
Kissinger said she's concerned every time she hears about another school district cutting back on time spent in physical education courses.
At a recent conference she attended, she noted that out of 70 PE teachers from various states who were there, she was the only one whose school had a daily PE program.
In addition, Kissinger coordinates with school nurse Stephanie Hebert to teach children about the importance of good nutrition.
Through a grant, the two taught fifth- and sixth-grade students about nutrition, and even gave them pedometers to wear during the school day. Students received points, based on their level of activity, and for the number of servings of fruits and vegetables they ate.
"Again, it's about teaching lifetime skills," Kissinger said. "It's not easy to change your diet once you're 40, but if you can start the when they're little liking fruit ... knowing they need five to six servings of fruits and vegetables per day ... that's what we're trying to do."