January 28, 2005

2005 Catholic Schools Week Supplement

Holy Cross teachers and students have fun
exercising with pedometers

By Mary Ann Wyand

Holy Cross Central School students and teachers in Indianapolis are having fun “walking” to Hawaii as part of a “Walk Across America” fitness project during the school year.

Physical education instructor Josh Welch organized the exercise program at the inner-city school in the Indianapolis East Deanery as a fun way to promote his course motto, “G-Y-M,” which stands for “Get Yourself Moving.”

“That’s my motto,” Welch said, “and that’s basically what the ‘Walk Across America’ is all about.”

When he started teaching at Holy Cross School three years ago, Welch posted a “Get Yourself Moving” sign in the parish’s Kelley Gymnasium, where he teaches the students about physical fitness and teamwork as well as shows them how to play individual and team sports.

He always begins physical education classes with basic exercises intended to help the students learn how to stretch their muscles and do warm-up activities safely before playing sports.

“We do a lot of fitness activities in class,” Welch said. “We stretch then we do jumps [jumping jacks] and either sprints or a timed run.”

Holy Cross students love to play basketball and other sports, he said, but they didn’t appreciate the health benefits of walking for exercise until he started the fitness contest with the teachers after school on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

It’s a simple and fun way to “Get Yourself Moving,” Welch said. “We even walk when it’s cold outside. When we had a lot of snow, there were probably 40 kids out there walking after school. They love it.”

Students and teachers wear pedometers that he bought to record their steps while walking laps around the school playground.

Welch adds up their steps and divides them into miles—2,000 steps equal a mile—then he marks their progress on a map of the United States posted in a school hallway.

By Jan. 19, the students had walked 1,477 miles, which Welch said is about a third of the way to Hawaii, and the teachers were halfway there.

As a result of the contest, he said, “we’re really getting a lot more exercise at school. The younger kids participate the most. A lot of the teachers wear pedometers every day, and a couple of the teachers walk three or four miles a day.”

The students and teachers are excited about who will win the fitness contest, Welch said, and when they will “arrive” in Hawaii.

“When we get there, Terri Rodriguez, our principal, is going to take a picture of us standing in the shape of the United States,” he said. “The kids who walk the most will get to go on a field trip, maybe to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway where they can walk around the two-and-a-half-mile track. That would be great. We’ll wear our pedometers.”

Welch also has arranged for the
students to participate in “Jump Rope for Heart,” a fundraiser which teaches them about cardiovascular health and benefits the American Heart Association, during the week of Jan. 31 through Feb. 4.

“I remind them that they are jumping rope in honor of a relative,” he said. “That helps keep them motivated.”

Students in the pre-kindergarten class and the first- through eighth-grades enjoy physical education classes, Welch said, and have learned how much fun it is to exercise regularly.

“Many of the kids just want to play video games after school,” he said. “My goal is to get them moving with some type of exercise. I’ve had a few students tell me I’ve motivated them to work a little bit harder. A lot of the students are starting to enjoy [physical education] class now, when before they didn’t care about it. I tell them to try to make yourself better every time you come to class, and you’ll keep getting a little bit better.”

Pre-kindergarten through second-grade students have gym class three times a week for 35 minutes each day, he said. Third- through eighth-graders have two 55-minute physical education classes every week.

The students call their physical education teacher “Mr. Welch,” but last year the kindergartners talked about how they love “Jim’s class” and he realized that they thought his first name was Jim.

“When they would see me, they would say ‘Hey, Jim,’ ” he recalled. “They would ask their teacher, ‘Are we going to Jim’s class today?’ ”

Last week, students learned how to bowl during physical education class.

Fifth-grade student Caleb Kesler had two strikes and won the informal fifth-grade class contest.

“I like to run and play ball,” Caleb said after physical education class on Jan. 19. “I like basketball. Mr. Welch helps us work harder and get more exercise.” †  


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