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Edison school’s Wellness Room looks beyond physical fitness

Success Story: Edison Elementary

APPLETON — In a small room at Edison Elementary School, students pedal stationary bicycles that control what they see on a screen.

The ExerGame cycles — two for lower body workouts and one for the upper body — are connected to Xbox or PlayStation video gaming systems so the students use both sides of their brain at the same time, said physical education teacher Chuck Heurkens.

The bikes represent just one station in the new, interactive wellness room at the school. The Edison Elementary community helped the project receive $25,000 by voting in U.S. Cellular’s Calling All Communities Campaign. With grants from the Appleton Education Foundation and ThedaCare, the winnings aided in purchasing equipment for the room.

It is a place where exercise is done as much for a student’s academic and social well-being as it is for their physical benefit, Huerkens said.

“We’re looking at improving behaviors, increasing academic scores and including a family component,” he said. “As far as I know, this program is not replicated anywhere in the U.S. That’s pretty humbling.”

Along with the ExerGame cycles, there’s an interactive heavy ball apparatus along a wall, waiting for two students to compete against each other by lifting a medicine ball into lighted slots.

Staff members work with students before school to help them better control their impulses in class and during school to help students improve their focus. After school, children can go into the wellness room on a week-by-week basis.

Students who have taken advantage of the room enjoy it, and so do their teachers, Heurkens said.

“Classroom teachers are adamant that the kids are much more focused. They’re able to concentrate for longer periods of time. Their emotions are more stable,” he said. “The kids love it. They’re talking to their parents about it. They want to use the room as much as possible. Some kids are using the room as much as three times a week.”

Families can exercise in the wellness room during an eight-week boot camp. They exercise two nights a week and receive free, personalized fitness training with an intern from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. Four times throughout the camp they meet with a registered dietician from Festival Foods.

Currently situated on the second floor, the room will move downstairs and expand in the future. Heurkens hopes to involve more interns, so more families can participate in the programming.

Students took their parents on a tour of the new space during parent-teacher conferences earlier this week — often dragging them by the hand from one machine to the next.

Kris Sparkman rode an ExerGame bicycle next to her daughter. She enjoyed seeing the equipment in action and giving it a try.

“We had heard about the wellness room, but I didn’t know there was so much kid-friendly exercise equipment,” she said. “It was pretty fun.”

Source: Appleton Post Crescent

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