Originally published June 24, 2019 in the Chicago Tribune.
By Rachel K. Hindery
Providing students with varying kinds of physical activity is important for their academic achievement and adjustment to school and life, Elmwood Park District 401 school board members were told June 19.
Elm Middle School Assistant Principal Ashley Groeneveld said with kinetic wellness — an integration of physical, emotional and social learning — growth happens inside and outside the classroom.
“The shift from physical education to kinetic wellness is taking place across the state and nation,” Groeneveld said, giving Lyons Township as a district that adopted kinetic wellness.
“It really gives our students the ‘why’ — why is it important to make healthy lifestyle choices,” she said.
Nicole Franklin, physical education teacher at Elmwood Park High School and a phys ed curriculum leader, expressed concern that requiring two physical education courses for high school graduation instead of four could have negative repercussions. She cited research on the benefits of physical education.
“We all want our students — your children or relatives — to achieve their highest potential,” Franklin said. “Because we share the same goal, we felt that it was important to share information with you regarding the important role that physical education plays in student achievement.
“The 2020-21 school year could potentially bring about a great deal of change for the Elmwood Park community,” she said. “These changes can be very exciting for some students, but it can also cause anxiety for others.”
Being active, as in physical education classes, could help students positively cope with stress, while reflecting the district’s values, she said.
“Academic performance and mental wellbeing are a priority for the entire staff. We work hard to create an environment that allows students the opportunity to grow mentally, physically and emotionally,” Franklin said. “We feel that physical education promotes all of these things, as well as communication and problem-solving skills.”
Groeneveld said different ways of applying knowledge are important in kinetic wellness.
“They would have opportunities in gymnastics; they would have opportunities outside, but we would also give them opportunities in a classroom if they so choose,” she said. As an example, she said students interested in sports medicine could shadow a professional.
Kinetic wellness is also cross-curricular. Subjects such as science, English, social studies, art, business and mathematics all have a place in kinetic wellness, she said, listing sports photography and other examples.
Groeneveld said Eastern Illinois University, Northern Illinois University, and Illinois State University, among others, offer courses in kinesiology.
“If we could front-load them all that information at the high school level, they could be competitive with their peers at the collegiate level,” she said.
Other classes, such as CPR education, are also important.
“At the very least, all of our Elmwood Park students should be CPR certified so that they could save a life,” Groeneveld said.
Board members expressed a desire for students to have opportunities for movement, and for learning by doing, in all kinetic wellness classes.
Franklin said many District 401 physical education classes, such as a strength and conditioning class, already follow ideas of kinetic wellness.