Ahwatukee resident and retired profess Chuck Corbin is taking the content he used to teach at Arizona State University and trying to combat a national epidemic.
Since retiring about five years ago after teaching more than 20 years of wellness and childhood obesity classes, Corbin has been developing a program called Fitness for Life- Elementary, an effort to fight childhood obesity and increase wellness while spreading information.
Corbin says in recent years, schools have tailored classroom teachings to meet rigorous state testing, in turn cutting out physical education concentration.
“In the process, kids are getting fatter and fatter,” Corbin said. “We feel like we don’t have time to have kids do recess or physical education.”
Ideally, schools designate four weeks per year, at their choosing, to act as “wellness weeks,” where they offer special teachings and activities for students and staff.
The new program features things like activity breaks, eating tips, physical education programs, and cafeteria events designed to include everyone in a school, from students to principals and cafeteria workers, Corbin said.
Classroom videos help kids get active for about five minutes in the morning. Afternoon lessons use books for academic activity breaks. Kits are included for teachers to make signs about activity, nutrition, and directions to the playground and to hang around school.
To keep parents informed, schools would host celebrations with parents and send newsletter updates home with students.
Corbin has been working with several co-authors for about two years to develop the program. A similar effort in high schools has been incorporated into thousands of high-schools worldwide since 1979, he said. A middle-school program was introduced four years ago.
Schools have started ordering the program and materials. It was tested in several Kyrene schools before it was formally introduced at a national convention in March.
One of Corbin’s main concerns now is if schools feel they will be able to fund the program in times of recession.
To that, he stresses the importance of getting kids active early on in life, to help it become a life-long habit.
“Physical activity benefits health of all ages. Kids who are active young will be more likely to be active adults,” Corbin said. “If you have good health, you’ll get by no matter what other resources you have.”
Providing kids with opportunities to be active and use up some energy can help later on in the classroom, Corbin said.
“If we take time to give kids activity breaks, they do better in school. We need to let them wiggle and move, and when they do, they learn better.”
In addition to education and health benefits, he said students will enjoy the activities and programs as they did in the trials.
For more information on the Fitness for Life program at elementary schools, visit www.fitnessforlife.org/elementary.
Kathleen Gormley is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a sophomore at Arizona State University.