There’s music, there are cardio equipments and then there are kids breaking a sweat over them: The cardio room at O.H. Schultz Elementary School in Mishicot, Wisconsin, is actually a gym with junior-sized workout machines. The idea behind the cardio room is to introduce elementary students to the concept of a gym and physical fitness through equipments that have been literally cut to their size.
While Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe blared out through the speakers, students worked their muscles on the rowing machine, pulled on resistance bands, or jumped onto colorful, circular marks on the floor. Others were pumping it out on the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike or the stair-master. Always present in the room along with the junior exercisers is Robert Hagenow, the phsyical education instructor at O.H. Schultz Elementary School. Calling it a unique feature of the school, Hagenow felt that the kids and the school were lucky to have all the equipment.
During a usual physical education period, the elementary students begin with team workouts in the school’s gym before heading over to the cardio room. At the cardio room, the focus on fitness is narrowed down to the individual level, where each student gets to tryout a different equipment and understand the particular muscle group being worked. As Hagenow put it, the cardio room is a breakaway from the conventional team oriented physical education curriculum. Instead, it introduced kids to the idea of individual fitness, which is likely to be a part of training for any sport in their future.
The cardio room was set up using a three-year grant, worth $795,000, from the Carol M. White Physical Education Program. Using the money, a room with cardio equipments was set up at both the high school as well as the elementary school within the Mishicot School District. Along with the cardio workout rooms, the high school and the elementary school got a climbing wall and a traversal climbing wall respectively.
More than half of the equipments being used by the elementary students were purchased by the school during the first year of the grant. In 2014, Hagenow said the school has added around three to four new equipments to the floor and hopes that in the following year, they would be able to fill up the room with more equipment. The cardio room has also been stocked with other items like basketballs, resistance bands and dodgeballs. Besides buying equipments, the money from the grant has also been spent on training teachers.
The idea behind installing them at both schools, said Hagenow, is that the elementary students, working out on equipments cut to their size, will become familiar with them by the time they are in the middle school. In instructor Hagenow’s view, the physical education curriculum has benefitted through the various changes it underwent with the installation of the cardio room. Commenting that the traditional curriculum was more of the role of the ball kind, where basketball or football were mainstays, he felt that individual attention to fitness has become the cornerstone of the new system.
Though the cardio room presented a whole new set of curriculum possibilities to the school district and helped acquaint children with a “lifetime” activity, the schools continue to focus on team sports as well. For Hagenow, the cardio room encourages children to be physically fit by doing their “own thing”, just like how adults keep working out even after they are out of school.
Even though the equipments have all been cut to the size of their users, there is a good chance that a lack of variety in their routine may burn out many of the elementary students. Hagenow said that the school understood that individual fitness activities may not be to every child’s liking and some of them may want to be out on the field playing football. So the students divide their allocated time between team sports and cardio activities and spend an overall 90 minutes every week in gym class.
By Aruna Iyer