Pilot Program Offers Middle Schoolers 'Zero-Hour' Gym

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Pittsburgh Tribune Review
By Bethany Hofstetter

A pilot program at Hampton Middle School will enable some students to take physical education class outside of the school day.

The Hampton Township School Board approved the "zero-hour" based physical-education pilot program last week. The program gives middle school students the option to take physical education class before the official start of the day.

"We're hoping this will increase student achievement and allow some flexibility in scheduling," said Eric Stennett, middle school principal.

Stennett said the program will enable students to participate in science, technology, engineering, arts and math enrichment activities or in remedial lessons.

"Any time you can find time to help a child individually is time well spent," Stennett said.

The zero-hour physical education pilot program is based on a similar program in Naperville High School in Illinois. That program was developed based on research from a Harvard Medical School, which showed the positive effects of exercise on brain functioning.

Naperville students who were struggling with reading skills were enrolled in a zero-hour physical education class, followed immediately by a literacy class. Students who were in the zero-hour physical education class advanced their literacy skills faster than those who were not.

"The philosophy and feeling of the middle school administration and teachers is, and research shows ... physical education in the morning is really beneficial for the students," said Gail Litwiler, school board member, prior to voting in favor of the pilot program.

Middle school administrators proposed the program last school year, but the faculty and administration was not prepared to implement it until now.

Parents will be responsible for transporting students to the middle school before the start of the school day during the pilot program. Letters were sent out to middle school parents after the board's approval.

Stennett said two of the four physical-education teachers are available to start their day early for the pilot program, which can accommodate 25 to 50 students.

The program is starting in the second semester of the current school year, now underway. At the end of the school year, the the program will be evaluated, Stennett said, and if it is successful the administrators will ask the school board to include it in the 2014-15 program of studies.

Bethany Hofstetter is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or [email protected]


January 24, 2014




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