Years ago the East St. Louis school district cut out physical education and the only exercise the kids get is at recess. But now, The U.S. Department of Education has awarded the East St. Louis School District and 66 other organizations nationwide grants totaling more than $33 million. The money is intended for initiating, expanding or enhancing physical education and nutrition education programs, including after-school programs, for students in kindergarten through 12th grades through the Carol M. White Physical Education Program.
So there's hope that these kids will soon be able to have daily time for moving. This is especially important during the grade school years when children seem most eager to run, jump, throw, skip and tumble. Not only does engaging in these activities burn energy, raise metabolism and mental alertness, but they also develope coordination, strength and fitness.
I feel fortunate to have grown up at a time when schools had the money, facilities and the will to believe exercise was a necessary part of a child's day. Even my first grade school on the south side of Chicago had a gym with equipment I can still picture perfectly in my mind. I can bring up the smell, sound and sight memory of that gym to this day.
What's also a loss to today's school children everywhere is the type of playground equipment which was not only fun, but developed all kinds of muscle groups. Horizontal bars made of steel that had kids hanging as they moved across arm by arm, swings that forced the legs, arms and abdominal muscles to really work to get going and stay going, merry go rounds that required running hard while pushing the handles before jumping on. Now playgrounds are thought to be dangerous places loaded with hard plastic, but bright colored and useless pieces of play equipment.
Maybe we could do better.