Photo by Sydney Cromwell.
Students follow the virtual dancer on the Wii to stay active during a physical education class.
The sound of pop music in Greystone Elementary’s gym is just a sign that its students are getting fit — and having fun doing it.
In September, Greystone debuted its “exergaming” physical education program, which uses a Nintendo Wii and a dance video game to help students stay active. The program is part of a statewide Wee Can Fight Obesity initiative by the Alabama Sports Festival Foundation (ASFF).
“I really liked that we danced today. It was a lot of fun,” second-grade student Ella Brie said after a physical education class.
Anthony Terling, the vice president of the ASFF, said the initiative started about six years ago as a way to combat childhood obesity. They focus on elementary and middle school children to teach exercise habits and connect fitness with fun.
“If you can get them young learning how to be physically fit and make fit choices… then obviously it’ll create that habit,” Terling said. “The kids are having fun, but at the same time they’re burning calories.”
There are currently 256 schools participating in Wee Can Fight Obesity, and Terling said the goal is to get the program into every public school in the state. Aside from the fun, Terling said the Wii program is beneficial for large P.E. classes and can also help special needs students to develop fine motor skills.
The ASFF gives participating schools around $2,000 worth of equipment, including a Wii and controllers, child-appropriate dance or Zumba games, a projector and a rolling cart. This is funded by a grant through the department of education, and Terling said participating schools are seeing results in their students’ health and activity levels.
The ASFF focuses on schools with higher at-risk populations or with fewer resources. However, once a year they give away a set of the equipment to a P.E. teacher who attends their annual state conference. This year, Greystone’s P.E. teacher Rand Payton was the lucky winner.
“We do lots of different activities. This is just an added bonus,” Payton said. “I’ve always wanted to win it, and it’s crazy -- I don’t ever win anything. So when they drew my name, I was like, ‘This is awesome!’”
From the cheers and laughter that accompanied a demonstration of the program on Sept. 25, the school’s students are loving the program so far.
Greystone Principal Kathleen Wheaton said the school felt fortunate to be included in the program.
“As you see, it adds one more dimension to the basic skills of P.E. and it works for every grade level, whether it’s kindergartners or fifth-graders, they enjoy it,” she said. “This is just one more thing they can use to involve and motivate our kids to be physically fit.”
For more information on the program, visit weecanfightobesity.us.