Kirstin Schwass gets her students and colleagues moving
to start the day at SouthFields Village Public School.

"If you provide it, they will play."

Kirstin Schwass, Physical Education Teacher, SouthFields Village Public School

Physical Education teacher Kirstin Schwass has spent the past 17 years noticing two constants when it comes to schools, students and physical literacy: Despite the variety of sports offered to Junior and Intermediate students there’s a finite number that can be selected as part of a team. And there are many students too intimidated to take part in try-outs, often because they lack confidence in their own abilities.

From this developed a puzzle — how to boost the physical literacy of less active students? For Kirstin it was simple, provide students the opportunity to participate in a fitness program.

“I went to each class and spoke to the students about the benefits of regular exercise and I explained how it can positively affect their bodies and brains,” said Kirstin. “I invited them to participate in my free exercise and training program that would start at 7:25 a.m. [Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays]”

Using the Functional Fitness Charts, which were designed to improve agility, balance, strength and flexibility, Kirstin, with the hope of boosting attendance, sent out a letter informing parents about her new, early morning fitness program B-4 School (Build A Better Body and Brain), explaining the program’s goals — improve students' physical literacy while also helping to boost confidence and competence.

“When we’re doing the activities now, we have more confidence in ourselves that we can achieve more. We know we can do it.”

Student, SouthFields Village Public School

How It Works

  1. Using the Functional Fitness Charts, 6-7 stations are set up in the gym
  2. Warm-up: light jogging, simple stretches
  3. Once warmed up students spend one minute at each station, repeating the activity until time is up, followed by two minutes of running/jogging

The Results

  • On average 30 students and 5 staff members show up on a regular basis
  • Students are happy, excited and eager — their confidence continues to build and expand
  • Parents are interested and pleased to see their child getting involved.
  • Students are connecting better with teachers

“I think the psychological benefits of them being there is huge — they like coming to school!”

Kirstin Schwass, Physical Education Teacher, SouthFields Village Public School

The success of Kirstin’s program is more than evident — not only does she have students showing up early to school three times a week, she also has them socializing, moving and recognizing the positive benefits of consistent exercise.

What makes Kirstin even happier is the positive response she’s receiving from parents, “This mother told me that I had to continue the program, she didn’t ask me if I would, she demanded it!” she says. “She said she wanted to email the principal and the superintendent to tell them how positive the program is for her son.”

As the program’s progressed new elements are added. The inclusion of music has been a big hit, activities change each day and to keep participants focused Kirstin’s come up with weekly challenges like “Muscle Moving Mondays,” "Workout Wednesdays" and “Fitness Fridays.”

With more and more teacher’s joining in, Kirstin feels confident in the program's continued success. “It is wonderful that the program can continue, even on days when I am absent,” says Kirstin. “I am grateful that other teachers feel comfortable to ‘run the show’ and everyone can continue with their exercise program. This shows that there is some sustainability in the program.”

"Remember: If you provide it, they will play."

Kirstin Schwass, Physical Education Teacher, SouthFields Village Public School