On The Rebound: Physical Education Gets Makeover

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SALISBURY, Md. - Remember gym class? It was a time that many of us were most likely excited to blow off steam or were finding a way to avoid the spotlight.

But in a growing trend, many kids across the country are now getting a reprieve from team sports, and are opting for a more individualized physical education.

"It encompasses a lot of different sports," said Michael Charleton, Supervisor of Family Health, Physical Education and Consumer Science for Wicomico Co. Board of Education.

"Lifetime activities such as yoga, things that are different for the students in terms of things that they might not get to experience outside of the class room."

Charleton joined the Board of Education three years ago on a mission to make gym attractive to the masses. A former professional soccer player, he wanted to help students who aren't star athletes find the fun in personal health activities.

"Before, if you weren't interested in basketball or weren't interested in soccer, you weren't involved in those activities," Charleton said.

It's part of a nationwide initiative to fight the battle of the bulge, where 17 percent of kids between two and 19 are obese. And only 25 percent meet the national fitness recommendations.

At Salisbury University, the next generation of Physical Education teachers are already seeing a difference at James Bennett High, where students can take pilates, yoga and weight lifting.

"We build all semester long so they can be successful outside of the classroom," said Devin Gardner, a Senior Physical Education student and an intern at Bennett. "They learn lifts, they learn how to exercise properly, they get all the right cues and all the things they'll use out side of school."

"They're more willing to be involved in the class, they're more willing to participate, they love it," said Kelsey Scanlan, also a senior Physical Education student at SU.

Charleton said the health benefit is starting to pay off.

"We are seeing an increase in cardiovascular scores," Charleton said. He adds that the school system is not getting rid of team sports, broadening the spectrum.

"I think students are enjoying physical activity more because they're trying a wider variety of activities."


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