Athletic Grant revamps Gym and Health

Adam Riegel

  July 10, 2008, Mrs. Terry Thornton received the good news: Walpole High School had been selected to receive the Caroline White Physical Education Program Grant (PEP). The grant was created to provide money to help schools rebuild health and P.E. programs that had been cut due to reduced school funds over the last twenty years. Sponsored by the Federal Government’s Department of Education, the grant has a different emphasis each year. This year’s grant required the town to be involved as well. “Out of all the years that the school didn’t get [the grant], I’m really glad we did this year because this year makes the most sense,” said Mrs. Thornton. This grant will bring Walpole’s gym and health programs up to date, with some exciting twists. 

  The major focus of this year’s grant for Walpole is “Fitness for Life”. To apply for the grant, first a plan of action had to be set into place for the government to review and approve. “Everything that is going to be done has already been predetermined. It’s a lot of pieces that have to be tied together, but when it’s finished it will be a huge improvement,” said Mrs. Thornton. The grant has money set aside for the hiring of two new, full time gym teachers, one additional part time health teacher, and a project director. The plan is to update all of the materials for gym and health teachers, as well as provide them with additional training for these new items.  The new materials consist of equipment for activities ranging from archery and golf to “Dance Dance Revolution” to heart rate monitors to replacements for older gym equipment. Along with these new sports materials, the lower gym is going to be refurbished. The leaky roof will be fixed and the lower gym will receive a full range of cardio-vascular equipment, such as treadmills and ellipticals, as well as new weight-lifting machines. 

  Everything is set up to make students healthier in an increasingly sedentary America. The new gym teachers guarantee that students will now experience reasonable class sizes and more specialized work with the teachers. Also, the addition of a health teacher will ensure that students do not face scheduling conflicts that prevent them from taking a health class. The implementation of both teachers and materials will allow the health and gym curriculums to work hand-in-hand.

  “In health we study where students’ heart rates should be when they exercise, but now we will be able to go down to the lower gym and use the machines to achieve that heart rate,” offered Mrs. Thornton. “But it won’t just be about exercise – it’ll be fun too.”

  That’s where the Dance Dance Revolution comes into play. Combining footwork and coordination, with a high-paced rhythm, students can compete with one another while exercising. Also, some of the cardio-vascular equipment has screens and will be hooked up to the internet so students can play games or compete with one another while exercising. Lastly, a Project Adventure Course is being created in the woods by the school. Consisting of a ropes course, zip lines, and other activities, it will put students in situations where they have to work together to overcome physical challenges that they have probably not faced before; for example, how do you get twenty-five students on top of a ten foot high flat-surfaced climbing wall? This outdoor course is another innovative way of having students exercise, while allowing them to enjoy themselves. “It’s going to be really cool when it’s done,” said Mrs. Thornton. 

  Now of course all of this does not come free. Over two years the federal government will be providing the town with approximately four hundred thousand dollars. In the first year, the grant states that the government will pay ninety percent of the cost; the town, ten. In the second year, the government accounts for seventy-five percent of the cost; the town, twenty-five. This means that the town is getting five hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment, teachers, and training for only about one hundred thousand dollars. 

  However this investment is not only going to help the school, but also the town. Through the town’s Recreation Department, the lower gym will be open on nights and weekends to be used by members of the community. The Project Adventure course will provide another activity for the Recs’ summer camp.  Also teachers will be encouraged to use the facilities for their own exercise.

  When asked how this grant would improve Walpole High, Principal Alan Bernstein had this to say: “It already has. The new gym teachers have cut down class sizes and made them manageable. All students will now have two semesters of gym; health will fit into the schedule. The grant improves a program, which due to limited funding, was operating at a sub-standard level.” 

  This new set up will also improve the general health of the students, or at least increase their awareness. “There is no point of exercising and just hurting yourself or not knowing what you are doing,” pointed out Mrs. Thornton. Now the students will be taught the proper way to lift as part of a unit in gym classes. This knowledge will also be combined with aerobics, Pilates, and maybe even yoga to provide students with the full spectrum of exercise. This introduction to exercise, combined with nutrition in health classes, will provide students with the knowledge they need to live healthier, more active lives. The revitalized health and fitness program will contribute to the physical development of athletes and students alike.