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Kids build fitness skills for future

Valencia Valley Elementary School implements new, intense P.E. program

Posted: October 5, 2009 10:46 p.m.
Updated: October 6, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Second-grader Bailey Egington cheers after catching a beanbag in a hand-eye coordination exercise.

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Students at Valencia Valley Elementary School began the school year on a health kick with their Physical Education Release program.

The elementary school was the first in the Newhall School District to implement a program of its kind, which separates second- through sixth-grade students by grade level to engage in 80 minutes of P.E. time on certain days in the school week.

Offered on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, students agree this kind of workout works for them.

"I always have a lot of fun doing the activities," said sixth-grade student Amanda Saldivar, 10. "We get to use up so much energy. It's great."

The students are divided into four age-appropriate activity stations that focus on sports, games and fitness skills.

During designated times, 80 to 100 students meet on the campus field to attend different station for 12 minutes each before the whistle is blown and the groups rotate.

Station activities change every four to six weeks, allowing students to develop new skills and discover their personal strengths.
"I love doing all of the different stations because it teaches me so many new things," said sixth-grader Jessica Jefferis, 10.

"I learn to strengthen different muscles and how to improve stamina. It's helped me in a lot of ways."

After enduring the 80-minute station hopping, students return to classroom instruction and engage in a whole different kind of learning.

"I can think so much better after I've released all my energy outside," said sixth-grader Solena Hessel, 11.

Hessel's classmate, Carlie Stafford, agreed.

"I can concentrate more in class because I just spent so much time with my friends outside," Stafford said. "By the time we're done with P.E., I'm ready to sit down and learn again."

Stafford isn't the only student who feels this way.

"Schoolwork becomes like a privilege after being active for so long," Jefferis said. "I am so much more focused on what we learn after all that running."

Principal Tammi Rainville collaborated with the school's physical education teacher, Shelly Jefferis, to give students a more well-rounded education in health and fitness.

The program incorporates elements of the SPARK physical education program, a more inclusive and active education than most traditional P.E. classes offer.

Following the standard-based guidelines of the California State Standards for Physical Education, the release program has increased students' skill levels since its inception four years ago.

"Each year we see the kids improve and it's so great to watch," Shelly Jefferis said.

"You can see the students enjoy their P.E. time and learning how physical fitness can be made fun."

Jefferis views physical fitness programs as a fundamental part of student learning.

"With all the health issues among children today, it is important for them to learn how to be physically active at a young age," Jefferis said.

"Learning how to lead active, healthy lifestyles is one of the most important steps they can take to shape their attitudes about fitness. What they learn here can give them a positive direction for the rest of their lives."

Other teachers agreed.

"As the students go through the program each year, the skill levels change and you can see how they have progressed," said physical education teacher Eileen Conway.

"They are learning important life skills as well, such as sportsmanship and socialization. Even our little ones are gaining the confidence to play sports with the bigger kids."

Components such as cardiovascular endurance, flexibility and body composition are among the skills learned in all students who participate in the program.

"I take karate and I'm supposed to run two miles to get my black belt," said sixth-grader Ben Frechette. "In our P.E. time, I get to practice getting my time down and I really like that."

But one student knows that learning to be healthy is also a frame of mind.

"When I look into my future, I want to see that I am strong and fit," said sixth-grade student Brooke Boron.

"I have improved so much during my years of doing this program. My scores for the mile last year improved by 3 minutes. I just feel better everyday."

But Boron isn't the only student to run into a healthier lifestyle.

"I like knowing that I can run so much better now because of all my time here," said sixth-grader Katie Andrews.

Andrews and her fellow classmates have been preparing for the mile run that awaits them next year as they begin junior high school.

"There will definitely be sweat, but I know that I can run that mile, no sweat," Andrews said.


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