Originally published Feb. 17, 2019 in the Sioux City Journal.

Liberty Elementary School fourth-grader Devin Robinson flips a die in the air while adding numbers during a PE class taught at the Sioux City school by Corey Loffswold. The class combines elements of math and reading literacy with traditional PE activities. Photo by Tim Hynds, Sioux City Journal

By Earl Horlyk

Have you ever wanted to have the stamina of Deadpool and the agility of Spider-Man?

Physical education instructor Corey Loffswold is leading a gymnasium full of fourth-grade Black Panther and Wonder Woman wannabes through the paces at Liberty Elementary School.

“Do you want to look like Hugh Jackman did when he played Wolverine?” Loffswold asked as students referred back to printed exercise plans which showcase calisthenics of famous pop cultural superheroes. “You’ve got to hustle!”

A leader on the Sioux City Community School District’s physical education team and one of the writers of its curriculum, Loffswold is always on the lookout for innovative ways to get students to move.

“We only have elementary kids for two half-hour sessions a week,” he explained. “That means there’s only an hour devoted to phys ed per week. We’re keeping kids moving as much as possible.”

Getting kids engaged in physical activity is increasingly important since, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one-third of all U.S. children are overweight or obese. This number is expected to rise.

While young people have fewer weight-related health and medical problems than adults, overweight children run the risk of becoming overweight later in life.

This also means they have an increased chance of developing chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease.

“It’s easier to put kids on a healthy path at an early age,” Loffswold explained. “They’re having so much fun they don’t realize it is also good for them.”

Just wait until the kids realize they’re also honing their math and literacy skills while getting their heart rate racing.

It’s all true. One of Loffswold’s favorite activity involves having kids run toward lettered signs on the wall. Each letter spells out a common word like “table” or “chair.”

“The students get a fast spelling lesson while working off some pent-up energy,” he said.

Or Loffswold’s student will toss oversize dice for an impromptu math lesson.

“In order to play, they have to add up the numbers on the dice,” he said. “If someone rolls a six, everyone has to run across the gym and back.”

That’s not as easy as you think. And neither is the name game, which correlates the letter in a person’s name to a specific activity.

Since Loffswold’s first name is Corey, he’ll check off the activity from a list.

C equals 15 squats, O equals 25 jumping jacks, R equals 15 push-ups, E equals a 30-second rest and Y equals 10 crunches.

That seems exhausting.

Which is actually the goal of Loffswold’s class.

“Back when I had P.E. class, there were times when we sat around waiting for our turn,” he said. “If there’s no wait time, all of the kids have a chance to be active and not just a few.”

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    Elementary school physical education class combines exercise with math, literacy
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    Elementary school physical education class combines exercise with math, literacy
    PE teacher works in math, other literacy skills to exercise students' bodies and minds during class.
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