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Title: Finding A Fit For Every Student
By: Pat Louise
Published: Aug. 12, 2015
Fit Kids Fit Future, a locally created program piloted in Waterville Central School, invited the one person everyone knows who has also made it a mission to change the health of kids. Josh Lewis, a WCS graduate who owns and runs Garage Gym in the area, called the White House to talk to First Lady Michelle Obama. Obama’s focus in her role has been to reduce childhood obesity. “I’ve said from the infancy of what we’re doing that we need to sit in front of her,’’ Lewis said. “The country needs this program.’’Lewis and WCS physical education and health teacher Tammy Alcott, also a WCS graduate, developed Fit Kids, a revolutionary way for students to take phys ed and health classes in school.
In the past year, a number of schools have signed on to put it in their classrooms this fall. Rather than a teacher setting up a common exercise for every student in the class – say, 10 pushups – Fit Kids reverses the learning process. In the situp example, each student would select from a choice of three ways to do pushups, from easy to difficult, and then do their maximum ability. Their measurement of success is not based on how others do, but of their own improvement over time. WCS has served as the pilot school, expanding from one class two years ago to the full seventh through twelfth grades this past year. That provided 484 kids using the Fit Kids method. Students go through a series of tests when the semester starts to set a baseline. They are then tested at the end to compare. Of the Waterville students, 90 percent improved on their Fit Ready score. “It averaged 17 percent improvement in one year,’’ Alcott said.
In marketing the program to other schools, a big break came when Oneida-Herkimer-Madison BOCES agreed to be a middle man for districts. This means districts that purchase it are eligible for some reimbursement. “That was a huge step for us,’’ Lewis said. “Now this can be done in any school. Fit Kids comes ready for teachers to use with set lesson plans to work on improvements. It also allows room for customizing for each teacher and class as desired. So far seven schools are waiting for the training to roll Fit Kids out in September. And there may be more.
Alcott’s brother, Dale Roberts, lives in Philadelphia, where he taught art for a number of years. An accomplished artist, Roberts served as a liaison for his sister and Lewis to make a presentation to representatives of 20 nonpublic districts. They spent two hours in conversation with the director of the schools and the curriculum coordinator. “They want to get the word out to their teachers and administrators,’’ Alcott said. They also asked a question the two have heard a few times. “They said, why aren’t you on Shark Tank,’’ said Lewis about the reality television show that sets up competition of original ideas between their inventors. Through connections in Portland, Oregon, Fit Kids has some possible partnership with Nike, and the Chicago school district has shown interest.
Getting Michelle Obama’s interest and perhaps approval would be an amazing step, they said. While Lewis did not get the First Lady to the phone, he did get one of Obama’s representatives. After he explained Fit Kids and the reason why the First Lady would be interested, he was given an address and code to use to send examples of the program. In the next month, Fit Kids should get a response, they said.
“The equipment needs are minimal, it’s a holistic circle of ways to live better and we have the good results from Waterville for two years to back up our program,’’ Lewis said. Those results extend past high school. Lewis and Alcott, an instructor at Garage Gym, use the same approach for adults. The concept takes in physical and mental wellness through exercise, nutrition and goal setting. Alcott said the connection between phys ed and health classes comes in explaining why things are done. “Kids aren’t doing an air squat just because the teacher said so,’’ she said. “The health curriculum helps them understand why they are doing it.’’ That turns health classes using Fit Kids into a more active setting than a lecture based class. “They like it because they are up and moving,’’ Alcott said.
This year, Waterville students piloted a Hidden Genius element worked into Fit Kids. Everyone had to come up with an invention to add value to humans, animals and/or the planet. Students had to build a website and make a presentation of their idea for a company. Ideas included ways to improve the health of the homeless so they could get jobs and talking clothing, such as football helmets that warned a player of a possible concussion. “It was powerful,’’ Lewis said. “These were legit companies where the student could see how their idea could add value to the world. That’s what Fit Kids is about.’’