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The Tampa Tribune (Florida)

Pinellas County physical education teachers are hoping a workout video made with the Tampa Bay Rowdies will encourage their students to be a bit rowdier in and out of their classes.

A few Lakewood High School football players and Osceola Middle School students this summer teamed up with the Rowdies on an education video to show in every physical education class in the county. Local Rowdies players Anthony Wallace, Kyle Clinton, Brian Shriver, JP Rodrigues and Blake Wagner trade off demonstrations with the students of how to properly perform exercises for class.

The video is paid for by the Carol M. White Physical Education Program, a three-year federal grant to improve students' health by disguising it as fun, elementary physical education teacher Angela Carapella said. When the school district won the grant last fall, it found middle schoolers' scores on their yearly fitness tests were at an all-time low. Pinellas was one of 60 school districts awarded the grant by the U.S. Department of Education, which doles out about $775,000 for each year.

"We needed to find ways to make it accessible to the kids so they wouldn't feel embarrassed or called out," said Carapella, Florida's Elementary Physical Education Teacher of the Year. "P.E. is supposed to be about building skills, building confidence and building good character traits, so the biggest thing with the grant was that we were going to try to make exercising fun for the kids."

The video, one of the biggest projects sponsored by the grant, shows Rowdies players working through each of the exercises in Pinellas' fitness assessment, a variation of the Presidential Youth Fitness Test called Being Fit Matters. "The team filmed videos at Lakewood High for every level of PE class to pump students up before they take their tests," Carapella said.

Those exercises are paired with footage Carapella shot of Pinellas students at Rowdies games and the team's summer soccer camp, sharing interesting answers on how the fitness and healthy lifestyle tips they get in class impact their lives, she said.

The video should be completed in October.

"The Rowdies have been so great in expressing how much fitness has played a part in their lives as professionals, but also in their everyday activities, so we hope the children will be inspired to excel," Carapella said.

"Although students won't pass or fail their fitness tests based on their physical abilities, it's important they make sincere efforts toward the healthy fitness zones for their age group," Carapella said. Another major component of the grant is recording students' performance data for the education department to track the impact of the innovative exercises.

Carapella and others with the school district spent the summer working with local R' Clubs and YMCA programs, and plan to continue this school year with before- and after-school workouts.

The team disguised fitness as interactive games in which there are no losers. One of the most popular games is a version of tag where, instead of sitting on the sidelines, students do jumping jacks, push-ups and other physical challenges to get back in the game.

The grant also purchased thousands of pedometers for students to wear for seven days and to record their steps in a fitness journal. This school year, middle school students and Lakewood students will wear the pedometers with a parent's permission.

That data will be the school district's test to see if it meets the grant's stringent requirements. At the end of the grant's three years, the school district is expected to show a 5 percent to 10 percent improvement in students' fitness levels.

"In the spring we did it for the first time to get baseline data, and what we found was that students enjoyed the pedometers so much that they became more active trying to get more steps, and that was kind of our hope," Carapella said.

August 26, 2014


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