West Brook Middle School in Paramus is working on inspiring its students to live a lifetime of fitness with the creation of a new workout room and a grade-wide cross-country race.
The school has been placing an emphasis on fitness in its gym classes for some time now, according to physical education teacher Larry Goodman. Due to the size and space of the gym, the school used what was a storage area to house exercise equipment, painting the walls and adding a rubber floor to turn it into a miniature gym.
"We want to further develop our fitness program and make the most efficient use of our space," Goodman said.
Using money raised over years of fundraisers, the teachers have purchased five exercise bikes, an elliptical, a treadmill, a weight bench and a rack of dumbbells that range for 4 to 10 pounds each, according to Goodman. The layout of the room lets it blend seamlessly into the students' existing workout routine, adding another station to the ones they already followed, he said.
"We can open up the door so you can see in there from the gym," Goodman said. "It kind of expands our space so that we can do stations of fitness, like sit-ups in one station, push-ups in another station, light dumbbells in one station, and then they can rotate into this room and do a little cardiovascular work."
Creating the room was a joint effort between gym teachers Wayne Poppe, Debbie Scuilla and Joan Hluchan, Vice Principal Larry Calenda, Principal Carla Alvarez, the custodial staff and Goodman. The support and approval of school administration, as well as the custodians' help in clearing up the storage space, were both necessary for the program's success, Goodman said.
Extra funds remain in the account used to purchase equipment for the room, and all of it will go toward the continued improvement of the physical education program at West Brook, Goodman said. Teachers are currently in the process of ordering four heavy-duty exercise bikes to replace the existing ones, which will be used in special education classes.
"When [exercise bikes are] being used four times a day, they take a lot of wear and tear," Goodman said. "The ones we have are working, but we know over time they're going to go if we don't get something heavier duty."
The exercise room is used once a week by each class as part of a rotation that includes cross-country running, sports and other physical activities.
"Kids seem very excited to go in and use the equipment. They ask to use it and seem very excited and enthusiastic, working hard in the fitness room," Goodman said. "We're pretty happy about that."
The room is also available for students and teachers after school on request. While the space is too small for access to the general public, it serves as a small exercise center for anyone who attends the school.
Emphasis on fitness extends to the students' health unit, which takes the place of gym one quarter out of the year, according to Goodman. In addition to learning about nutrition and proper exercise, the classes are broken up with short periods of stretching and light exercise at the halfway point.
"They'll stand up behind their chairs and do stretches or things like that because they don't have gym for a whole marking period," Goodman said. "We want to get them up for five minutes."
The school is also planning a half-mile run for the entire sixth grade on Oct. 20, according to Goodman. The students will be split up by gender, and then run a predetermined course around the school to help foster cooperation. If the run goes well, other grades will be given a chance to join in.
"We're excited by that, because the kids will enjoy running with their whole grade, giving them a sense of unity and motivation when they're running with the whole group," Goodman said.
The emphasis on exercise is part of the school's attempt to combat childhood obesity. By introducing students to regular exercise at a young age, they can instill habits that will remain with them for a lifetime.
"We want to encourage lifelong fitness," Goodman said. "Sports are great, but lifelong fitness is going to help your overall health. You don't necessarily have to be an athlete, but if you run, bike, or swim it makes you healthier and cuts down on potential health problems."