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Motivating Charter School Students to Improve Their Fitness

Vanguard School at Cheyenne Mountain Charter Academy

School Contact: Adam Rich

Getting Started

Before the school introduced the Presidential Youth Fitness Program, Adam Rich and other PE teachers noticed that their students were not excited or motivated in their PE classes. Some students were embarrassed by their performance in activities like the group mile run. Also, without a formal system, students did not have information on how they could improve their fitness in specific areas. The program incorporates FitnessGram®,  a fitness assessment for students that focuses on the five components of health-related fitness: (1) aerobic capacity, (2) muscular strength, (3) muscular endurance, (4) flexibility, and (5) body composition. Instead of competing against their classmates, students use the personal benchmarks and identify specific areas to work on, such as improving hamstring flexibility during the sit and reach test.​

Up and Running

Adam found through implementation of the program that kids are excited about fitness and motivated to work toward customized goals. He said it also has helped students understand health-related fitness and the role activities in other PE lessons can play to improve those components. For example, students who may not have liked playing basketball now understand that by participating and running up and down the court, they are increasing their fitness and possibly improving their PACER (progressive aerobic cardiovascular endurance run) test score in FitnessGram. Adam and other teachers noticed that some students who do not play sports excel with FitnessGram because it emphasizes health rather than athletic ability. 

Adam gives students a certificate the first time they reach the Healthy Fitness Zone® in at least five components (the criteria for earning a Presidential Youth Fitness Award). For students who reach that goal a second time, they receive a Presidential Youth Fitness Award patch. Adam says that students, especially the younger ones in fifth and sixth grade, are very motivated to earn the patch. He and the other PE teachers conduct the FitnessGram assessments twice a year, in the fall and spring, which gives students enough time to work on the fitness components and improve their scores. Students who do not meet the Healthy Fitness Zone for one or more of the components receive a “Needs Improvement” score, which motivates them to improve. Adam remembers two students in particular who received Needs Improvement scores on muscular strength and flexibility the first time they were tested. After working hard in and outside of class, they reached the Healthy Fitness Zone in all five components during the second assessment and were very excited to receive the awards.

What Comes Next

Adam has found that parents now understand the value of the fitness assessments and can see their kids’ growing interest in fitness.

The administrators and parents value the Presidential Youth Fitness Program and are committed to keeping the program for future students.