NEWTON — Physical education teachers across the nation continually strive to develop programs to help their students learn to be active and healthy throughout their lives.
Newton Senior High teachers Brian Smith and Kim Florke began brainstorming several years ago about what they could do for Newton students. That brainstorming came to fruition in August — the new cardio exercise room on the upper level of the NHS gymnasium.
“Coach Florke and I wanted more for students in our PE classes, more than just activity related classes. We wanted more wellness and fitness related opportunities for the students,” said Smith. “She and I went through the process of what we’d like to have in the room for students to use. I wrote grants and the goal was to raise $40,000.”
With approval from last year’s administration, Smith wrote the grants and they received donations from several community organizations and businesses. Smith pointed to the signs on the wall in the room — Jasper County Foundation, Newton PTA, Edward Jones, NCEF, Walker, Billingsley and Bair Law Office, Clemon-Maki Insurance Associates, Advantage Credit Union — as the generous benefactors.
Cardinal Cardio was open for use by Newton students when school began in August. The glass enclosure was built by the school, Smith said. The room has elliptical exercise machines and tread mills. He said they purchased top of the line equipment for the room.
“The kids really enjoy it,” said Smith, who has been teaching physical education at NHS for 18 years.
Florke has been teaching physical education at Newton for 16 years.
“This cardio room is a fantastic addition to our overall PE program and will benefit many students and faculty,” Florke said. “It aids our vision of overall wellness.”
Smith said students rotate during PE classes from group activities and the cardio workouts. He said instead of students sitting out and not doing anything during the activities, they go up and work out in the fitness room.
“The cardio room motivates me to workout in my off periods,” said Kacy Cazett, Newton senior, who participates in volleyball and track. “I try to run about three miles every school day in the cardio room. The varsity of machines that students can use is fantastic. I’m thankful the school built the cardio room, for it has improved my athletic ability.”
Smith said the school also received iPads to use with the physical education program. Students use the program, my fitness pal, to document their nutrition, daily intake of calories, and calories they burn through activities, Smith said, as well as document the amount of time they spending in the cardio room and other physical education activities.
He said they have more elliptical machines in the room because of the variety of movement available through the machines compared to a treadmill with just running or walking.
“The machines give me an idea of how hard I’m working by giving the calorie burn, distance, heart rate, speed and intensity,” said Felicia Fischer, Newton senior. “Before the cardio room was built, I had no desire to work out and now I do. I’m so thankful for the room, and the school had definitely benefited from it.”
Smith said the cardio room impacts 100 to 150 students on a daily basis per nine weeks. He said some of the students who had PE the first nine weeks are still trying to come in and use the room during their free time or after school.
“As long as there is supervision, students may use the room. During a PE class, the room is for the students in the class but we have students coming after school to use it,” Smith said. “Students are motivated to work out on the machines. This is a real positive thing for our school.”