Music is already playing when students enter Carver Elementary School’s gymnasium at 8 a.m.
They find a spot with their classmates on the gym floor and dance until everyone has entered.
After a brief pause for the Pledge of Allegiance, three Carver teachers climb the stage and lead the participants in different body movements. Students and teachers pump their arms and stomp their legs. They wave and flex and clap and sway. The exercise lasts about 30 minutes and then everyone quietly returns to class to start the day.
“It helps you wake up, and it helps you learn,” said Katy West, 7, a first-grader at Carver.
This is how the school’s students have begun each Monday to Thursday since the middle of April. After noticing that her students were out of shape, PE teacher Sherry Rial implemented the early-morning exercises. The school day begins at 7:45, and students are in the gym at 8.
Rial said she has already noticed a difference in her students’ fitness levels, and the number of daily tardies has decreased at the 200-student kindergarten to second-grade school.
Shortly before the daily exercises began, they school had as many as 194 tardies in one particular week, Principal Brenda Robinson said. Two weeks later, that number was 46. Now there are only two or three tardy students per day, she said. Robinson said the reason is that the students don’t want to miss the morning exercise.
“They absolutely love it,” she said.
Rial devised the program after fitness checks revealed high blood pressure and body fat levels and low flexibility in the young children. Through research, she learned about All Children Exercise Simultaneously, a program in which schools across the world are to exercise on the first Wednesday in May.
She decided to take that exercise and do it nearly every day. The only day the students don’t do the morning exercises is Friday, when the school already brings in a member of the community to lead a health or fitness activity with the children for an hour.
“What I love the most is seeing their faces once we get the music started,” Rial said. “They’re ready to go. If kids don’t like something, they’re going to let you know.”
First-graders Quinn’niya Lowery and Cooper Davis each had big smiles when discussing the morning routine.
“You wake up in the morning with a good attitude,” Lowery said. “It is good for your body.”
Added first-grade teacher Pam Wilburn: “It works their energy out, and they are work to work when they get to class.”
Rial, who is also the high school tennis coach and an assistant coach for girls soccer, leads the program along with kindergarten teacher Emily Roberts and second-grade teacher Blair Curtis. The school also is recording a fitness routine, and will give each student a DVD for the summer.
“I can tell that my own fitness level has improved,” Rial said. “Teachers have lost weight.
“The kids have learned the moves. In the beginning some stood and watched, but they are all into it. They’re not struggling any more.”
Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal