What do your kids do in gym class at school? Dodgeball, softball, kickball? Some schools around the country are getting creative about how they encourage kids to be active with physical education (PE) offerings — cultural dance classes, pickleball, table tennis, kayaking, fly fishing, and CrossFit — outside the norm. Then there’s Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque, Iowa, which has yardwork on its syllabus. It’s a thoughtful way of combining PE with an act of service.
Yard Work as PE Credit
The Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque, Iowa — a school that enrolls juniors and seniors at risk of dropping out — recently overhauled its PE curriculum. Instead of heading to the gym, students visit the community’s elderly and disabled to lend a hand with yard work. In return, the student receives PE credits.
Students choose from a variety of different PE activities. For the teens deciding on yardwork, tasks might include raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, or cleaning gutters.
Tim Hitzler, a social studies teacher at Alternative Learning Center, told NPR, “In education, a lot of times, there’s so many different gimmicks and curriculum packages … And something like this, all you need are a few garden tools … It just makes sense. It’s so simple. And it works.”
Why Is This A Good Idea?
This simple concept benefits both the students and individuals receiving help. According to Hitzler, students aren’t necessarily thrilled about doing yard work. After completing tasks are complete, students say they feel a sense of accomplishment and pride.
According to an article from ChildrensMD, research has shown when teens regularly engage in community service, they become more responsible and their self-esteem rises. Volunteering also gives teenagers a skill set they’ll use on the job and in life — leadership, communication, time management, and decision-making skills. And then there’s the lesson they learn: giving back feels good.