If you walk into Bower Hill Elementary School in western Pennsylvania, you’ll see more than traditional learning happening in the classrooms. In addition to Physical Education, you’ll find students walking laps in the hallways, performing functional strength training, and doing cardio dance. These kindergarten through 3rd grade students are getting an education in both mind and body.

Four years ago the state of Pennsylvania asked school districts to help fight childhood obesity. Schools established Wellness Committees to educate students and staff about fitness and nutrition. Joint efforts from the Bower Hill Wellness Committee and PTA led to Total Fitness Days. “Classroom teachers have the freedom to choose the movement and cardio activities for their own students,” says principal Kelly Gustafson.

Third grade teacher, Kristin Blosel, chose cardio dance for her classroom. Students select their own aerobic and dance moves. “They have a voice. No one is afraid to be silly with each other. A level of comfort is established,” explains Blosel. “We become a closer classroom community.”

Blosel’s Total Fitness Days are Thursdays because students have reading and spelling tests. Blosel says students get their wiggles out and are “more focused and ready to concentrate after the stretching and cool down.”

Total Fitness Days have been a total success at Bower Hill. “Students have shared that ‘exercise is fun’ while teachers have documented the ‘ready to learn’ behaviors from their students after engaging in the Total Fitness activity,” says Gustafson.

Blosel has seen her students fall in love with fitness. “I see how excited and motivated they are to exercise – which is wonderful!”

Bower Hill Elementary School is in the Peters Township School District – ranked in the top 10 school districts in Pennsylvania.

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