Mississippi Students Required To Exercise Mind And Body

OCEAN SPRINGS (WLOX) -- "You've got to pull!" the coach told a third grader.

"It's scary," the boy responded, as he tried to pull himself up a pole.

It looked like a miniature boot-camp. Students at Magnolia Park Elementary in Ocean Springs are getting quite a work-out this week.  They are trying-out nine, newly-installed fitness stations.

"They work on upper body strength, balance, abdominal endurance, and they're fun," said Coach Katie Povolo. "I think it's a great opportunity for kids to get more physical activity."

"Because it helps your muscles," said third grader Chris Pasvantis, as he flexed his right arm.

This fitness routine will be part of the school's curriculum next year. That's because the Mississippi Healthy Students Act requires students to get 150 minutes of exercise a week. The thinking behind that is healthier bodies lead to sharper minds.

"If you're doing all that work, and if you get enough sleep, your brain will get really smart," said Chris.

"It's really fun. It's really exercising," said third grader Jayson Patrick.

Besides the regular P.E. programs, teachers are also taking a creative approach to integrate more physical activity in the classroom.

"I implemented or gave a curriculum called Shake and Learn Language Arts to our 2nd grade teachers this year," said Povolo. "It incorporates all kinds of Language Arts skills where the kids are singing songs, moving, dancing, doing hand movements, while they're learning. It's wonderful to watch the kids work on those skills and be successful, and have fun and know that fitness can be enjoyable."

The new law also impacts high school students. They're required to take additional health and P.E. courses in order to graduate. Certain extracurricular activities like football, ROTC, and cheerleading can be substituted for the Physical Education requirement.