A student’s formative years often dictate the pace of how they develop as a person. For most of us, it’s our adolescent years. It’s a time in our lives where there’s extreme pressure to perform well in academics. We struggle with distractions that pull us in different directions.
In the 1960’s, the late president John F. Kennedy had proposed a rigorous physical education program because he recognized the need to revitalize the next generation’s mental and physical vigor. The special program was introduced and implemented at La Sierra High School in California. This was successful and eventually a few more schools followed. However, for some unexplained reason, the interest for the program decreased and the program was eventually abandoned.
“A country is only as strong as its citizens” – John F. Kennedy
In his TED Talk, recognized educator, Paul Zientarski noted that the US Physical Education Program had gotten easier and easier and at the same time the average American had become more and more unfit.
They attempted to test and see if replicating the practice of a rigorous exercise will benefit their school. As a result, they found that an improvement student’s fitness level is often followed by an increase in attendance, alertness, participation, and general academic performance.
Following suit, several schools implemented a rigorous exercise program. The most popular was CrossFit.
The constantly varied functional movements of CrossFit offered a way to monitor their progress with quantifiable data through performance benchmarks like improved movement execution, decreased workout time, increased number of reps, etc.
The CrossFit program addressed each student’s need to be challenged because the students are able to scale up or scale down the difficulty of the workout depending on their fitness level.
The schools had reported similar results in the improvement of their students’ performance since CrossFit was introduced.
An initial challenge the schools faced is that only the school athletes will be interested in joining the CrossFit program. Interestingly enough, each class is a mix of athletes and straight A student’s. In fact, people who don’t have a specialty or competitive sport and is only interested in getting fit are more likely to join a CrossFit program. A PE teacher notes that it’s heartwarming to see camaraderie and cooperation between different groups of students that are often not found together.
Observations of different PE teachers:
– There appears to be an increased desire for the students to participate and challenge themselves through the workouts.
– Students become more independent.
– They volunteer assistance to correct each other’s lifting form.
– There is a noticeable increase in a student’s exertion of effort and since implementation a momentum had formed and the benefits other areas of a student’s life including academics and confidence.
Adapting a CrossFit program to replace the traditional Physical Education program requires careful consideration as several proposals had been met with strong opposition. That said, the benefits are also consistent among the schools who conducted the test. Perhaps more schools will adapt the CrossFit program into their educational system. Only time will tell.