Norridge school focuses on fitness
Jim Nelson, physical education teacher at Pennoyer Elementary School in Norridge, uses lots of equipment to keep students active, including this crate of items for flag football. | Cathryn Gran~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 11, 2013 7:04AM
NORRIDGE — Physical education plays a vital role in the curriculum of Pennoyer School.
Students at the Norridge grade school spend at least two, if not five, days a week engaged in physical activity.
Fifth- through eighth-grade students spend 40 minutes each school day in some form of physical activity, said Jim Nelson, physical education teacher and Norwood Park resident.
Some days the students run three minutes, other days they do eight minutes.
Nelson and his assistants hand out “PWing” awards to the top 25 students in each grade who have logged the most laps.
“Other days, we do push-ups or sit-ups,” he said. “We also track (students’) results to see if they have improved.
“And we teach them how to monitor their heart rates.”
After a good cardio workout, students’ heart rates should be between 120-180 beats per minute.
Nelson turns running into a fitness game for kindergarten through fourth-grade students, before they do stretches.
“It’s healthier to run before stretching,” he noted. “It’s better for flexibility.
“And for focus.”
Nelson said the break from classroom work helps students concentrate when they go back to class.
“Even adults need that break,” he added.
The school recently learned representatives from the Chicago Wolves hockey organization again will visit to speak about the importance of exercise.
“They’re such a great group,” Nelson said of the Wolves.
Principal Susan Miceli said physical education extends beyond gym class.
“At the primary level, we do something called ‘Me Moves in the classroom.” she said.
The program provides five-minute sensory breaks, sometimes in the middle of class, that work on large and fine motor skills while increasing blood circulation to the brain, she explained.
“It helps with concentration,” she said.
In the physical education classes, Nelson said sometimes sessions are split into activity stations where students perform one form of exercise before moving on to another activity.
“Some are for fitness, some build skills,” he said.
Miceli is a huge advocate of exercise.
When she’s not working, the principal practices yoga, swimming and other physical activities.
“I’ve always been one to work out,” she said. “Working out helps with every aspect of what I do.
“And everyone should carve out at least one hour just for oneself,”she added.~.