Originally published Sept. 25, 2022 by MagicValley.com.

By Eric Goodell

It’s billed as 48 minutes of fun.

When Simon Olsen steps onto the floor with a bunch of students from Stricker Elementary in Kimberly, it won’t be to teach math or history, but to instill in students, even at their young age, the importance of getting plenty of exercise and staying physically fit.

Third-grader Esmeralda Ramirez Garcia, 8, jumps rope during recess on a Thursday afternoon in August at Oregon Trail Elementary School in Twin Falls. DREW NASH, TIMES-NEWS

But this physical education teacher is not there to have them spend large amounts of time doing sit ups and pushups, but to have fun.

“We are here to be the fun teachers and give the kids one more reason to come to school,” Olsen said.

Plus, it gives them a break from the regular studies of reading, writing and arithmetic.

In Kimberly Elementary School, Kayla Hutcheson, has some of the same philosophies.

“I love to see them laughing, having a good time, and socializing,” Hutcheson said. “That is my favorite part of the job.”

The pair of PE teachers instruct students from kindergarten through the fifth grade, with older students having one 48-minute class per week, and the younger ones having two classes of 25 minutes each per week.

But that by itself, including the 50 minutes of recess time, is not enough to guarantee that students will stay physically fit, Hutcheson said.

“I think it takes a team effort, from parents, teachers and friends — even the lunch ladies,” she said.

The point Olsen tries to make to his students is to find something physical you enjoy doing, and do it.

“You don’t have to go to a gym,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how you exercise, but you can have fun.”

He teaches students lots of games that get their hearts pumping. Those games can also be used outside of class.

Olsen’s classes begin with a warmup, often to a YouTube video. It might involve a crazy video where students pretend to be Minions running down a street, avoiding obstacles.

Once warmup is complete, they might play tag.

“The kids play a lot of tag,” Olsen said. “It gets cardio in and teaches other skills as well.”

One favorite activity of Hutcheson’s students is dodgeball, played with foam balls, not the hard rubber balls of years past.

“They are always asking, ‘Is it dodgeball day?’” she said.

Olsen said one challenge he deals with centers around kids wanting to play video games or watch TV for extended amounts of time.

“It’s easy to waste a few hours just watching a screen,” he said.

But for the most part, Hutcheson said students in Kimberly stay active through the many opportunities available to them.

In addition to emphasizing physical fitness, she also talks to students about healthy eating and about being a good person.

“Sportsmanship and good citizenship are big in my book,” she said.

Bridget Tilton, district secretary, said she was impressed by the efforts of Olsen and Hutcheson.

“Both of these PE teachers are outstanding and are able to help students learn how to increase health through movement and play,” she said, “as well as the importance of teamwork.”

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