Originally published Oct. 14, 2019 by NBC 6.

By Ari Odzer

If you find a middle school that takes physical education so seriously that all of its PE teachers are certified personal trainers, you’ve probably just walked into Driftwood Middle in Hollywood.

It’s a health and wellness magnet school, and those personal trainers make sure the kids learn how to work out properly so it becomes a lifetime skill.

“So everything here that happens at Driftwood Middle School, whether it’s academically or something considered to be enjoyable, is all about learning,” said Steven Williams, the principal.

The fitness facilities here are as good as any commercial gym, with a spinning class that looks like a Peloton commercial, and that’s not spin, it’s reality.

The jazz band presents more reality: even though many of the members just starting learning their instruments this year, they sound terrific.

Driftwood Middle has won numerous awards for environmental conservation, including being named a Green Flag EcoSchool by the National Wildlife Federation. The environmental thread extends to organic farming. While many schools have some type of garden, Driftwood has 30 raised beds, all built and maintained by students, growing tomatoes, eggplant, radishes, carrots, and more.

The students are donating all the veggies to Feeding South Florida. So what do the kids get out of this experience?

“Well part of it is they’re learning a skill, they’re learning how to use their hands, they’re collaborating with one another, and they’re demonstrating kindness to those in our community,” said Angela Rigdon, who teaches environmental wellness.

It’s all about the whole child here. We watched the high-energy dance team doing their routine, a blur of motion and choreography. At the same time, in a mood-lit classroom with spa music playing, students were engaging in pure tranquility, doing yoga for social and emotional well-being. It’s part of an effort to address the stresses of this challenging age group, when puberty is hitting, bodies are changing, and peer pressure is surging.

The teacher says the yoga helps them do better in their academic courses.

“Just by getting calm, and just settling the mind down, they’re able to access a higher level of intelligence, and we do use that here at Driftwood,” said teacher Linda Gancitano.

“We want to make sure that our students are emotionally fit, physically fit, environmentally conscious, and academically prepared,” added Williams.

It might seem like a heavy lift, but they’re getting the job done in the weight room and in the classrooms at Driftwood Middle School.

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