O.J. Tasse's Fitness Club inspires students to lead their own.

Part One: An Inspired Teacher

The story of O.J. Tasse

For four years grade six teacher O.J. Tasse acted as co-chair for DDECAA — the Durham District Elementary Catholic Athletic Association, running the athletic department for all elementary schools in the Durham Catholic District School Board (DCDSB). As co-chair O.J. would plan and organize mostly athletic events – organizing the sport seasons, booking referees, permits, scheduling locations, anything to do with athletics, it was safe to say O.J. had a hand in it.

As co-chair of DDECAA O.J. worked closely with the DCDSB’s Teaching and Learning Services Consultant James MacKinnon. James, a big sports fan himself, saw an opportunity in the school board’s athletic endeavours to get more students involved. Despite all the work and effort they were putting into the sports programs at different schools, a huge portion of students were missing out because they weren’t part of a school team either because they didn’t make it or weren’t comfortable trying out.

James envisioned something bigger for the schools — he wanted to get physical literacy into every classroom, get every student moving. And so, he and O.J., attended the 2015 OPHEA Conference in downtown Toronto, to see if they could discover any new avenues to help in their pursuit. As circumstance would have it, it was there that they ran into O.J.’s former teacher, Thompson Educational Publishing (TEP) VP of Teacher & Student Success, Ted Temertzoglou.

"I think the world of Ted, so when I talk about teachers who've made a really meaningful impact in my life, he's at the top of the list."

O.J. Tasse, Grade 6 Teacher, St. Marguerite d'Youville Catholic School

Ted invited James and O.J. to join his active teacher-training workshop highlighting TEP's Functional Fitness Charts. Says O.J., "We went to his workshop and we kind of looked at each other and our jaws just dropped, we were like 'wow, we've been going about this in the wrong direction — just the philosophy of engaging students in physical fitness and how to do that in school was just amazing for us to think about."

Inspired by Ted's active workshop James made the decision to purchase a few sets of the Functional Fitness Charts to try out at various schools, one of which was O.J.'s.

That winter O.J. received the Functional Fitness Charts.

"One of the things I thought about and I think I learned while introducing [the charts] is 'How am I going to make them fit into our school culture, because all schools are different. How am I going to make this something that the kids are really excited about?'"

His main concern, he continues, is that he didn't want the charts to feel like a chore or a punishment, and so he began a Fitness Club in his class. Students would pick different charts to use, and then they'd take them outside or into the hallway and get moving.

Of course it didn’t take long before other students took notice and eventually a few students in grades seven and eight approached O.J.; they voiced their interest in becoming "fitness leaders" and starting their own Fitness Club. "I was so excited," O.J. says, "I didn't want to be the one pushing everybody, I wanted it to be something that the kids would take ownership in."

The students would come to his class a few times a week, pick out the charts they planned to use for their next meeting and also discuss the importance of reading the cards properly and performing the actions appropriately to prevent injury and build proper movement patterns. They ran the clubs once a week during lunchtime for students in grades three to eight. Any particular week there would be between 25-75 students showing up to the gym to partake in the club.

To continue encouraging student’s physical pursuits, O.J. created a fitness board that sits just outside of his classroom that students could use for self-regulation. Each week he changes the charts selecting an individual based chart and a group activity. He believes that by providing the students with an outlet to blow off steam on their own terms helps them learn responsibility.

After hearing about it from Ted, O.J.'s started branching out by encouraging his older students to pair up with younger students as "Fitness Buddies". Together the older students help their younger partners read through the charts and then they use the chart to perform the activity together.

The next step for O.J. is to incorporate more literacy and numeracy-type activities in his use of the charts. He would also like to see them being used even more widely within the school, to see more classes using the charts during instruction and for self-regulation. But for now he's content using them for student physical literacy.

Says O.J., "I think that the cards have been a really good avenue to help students get engaged in school and it's an amazing one because it's an active one."

Part Two: An Inspired Student

The story of Marian Rose Flynn

Marian Rose Flynn, the oldest of 5 children, is described by her mother Julie as “a natural born leader who strives for progress and not perfection” which makes sense since Marian happens to be the youngest fitness leader at St. Marguerite D’Youville Catholic School.

Initially Fitness Leaders at the school were only students in grades seven and eight, running lunchtime Fitness Clubs for students in grades three, four and five, and Marian was one of those younger students. As a participant in one of Fitness Clubs and big fan of the charts (her particular favourites include “hot feet” and anything stretching related) Marian quickly saw one hitch in the new fitness system and immediately took it to O.J. “Who,” she enquired, “was helping the grade one and two students maintain their fitness?” When it became abundantly clear no one was Marian stepped up, opting to run a Fitness Club of her own during recess.

After getting the go ahead from O.J., Marian went to each and every grade one and two class to discuss the significance of physical fitness and most importantly, how fun it was, encouraging the students to join her new recess Fitness Club. Says Marian, “I want the grade 1 and 2 students to be healthy and strong. I want them to grow up living an active lifestyle.”

Once she began running the club O.J. noticed how quickly her outlook towards school changed, becoming more positive. Every morning Marian would show up to O.J.'s classroom to discuss which charts to use and how to do the exercises properly, "I noticed in [Marian] and incredible enthusiasm about being at school,” says O.J. “Seeing examples like her just being so happy and enthusiastic to be at school and to be active has been one of the best parts for me."

Marian doesn’t see running her recess Fitness Club as work, commenting, “It’s like having an extra phys-ed. I like being able to build my muscles and getting stronger.” She also enjoys working with the younger students, particularly being afforded the opportunity to teach others how to be healthy and fit.

Now that the weather's getting nice Marian's taking her recess Fitness Club outside. Notes Marian’s mom, Julie, “Marian has become more confident and her self-esteem has definitely improved.” Which shows just how contagious physical literacy really can be.

Interview with Marian Rose Flynn

The grade four student took it upon herself to run a
recess fitness club for students in grade 1 and 2.

TEP: Marian, can you tell us how you got involved with the Functional Fitness Charts?

Marian: I started using the fitness charts in the hallway where Mr. Tasse had some displayed. [O.J.’s Fitness Board] I also attended Fitness Club put on by some of the older kids who used them to organize activities for us.

TEP: What made you decide to lead your own fitness club?

Marian: I think it’s fun. I want the grade 1 and 2 students to be healthy and strong. I want them to grow up living an active lifestyle.

TEP: What do you like best about running a fitness club?

Marian: I can teach people and I get to use more fitness charts myself. I like being able to do the charts with the younger kids. It’s like having an extra phys-ed. I like being able to build my muscles and getting stronger.

TEP: What are you favourite charts?

Marian: I like to use “hot feet.” I also like stretching charts because you can use them before using other cards too.

“Marian has become more confident and her self-esteem has definitely improved.”

Julie Flynn, Marian’s mother