“Jackson, you’re on fire,” a laughing classmate yelled.
Jackson Landreau didn’t respond. He was too busy dancing.
“I feel good,” Jackson sang as he moved from side to side, throwing in an occasional spin. About 30 other Sherwood Elementary School third-graders were doing the same.
The group was involved in a physical fitness session using a Nintendo Wii Fit game called “Just Dance 2.” Jackson and physical education aide Jenny Greene were leading the group to the music and moves of soul singer James Brown. Jackson had double the points of the instructor. “I love beating her,” a smiling Jackson said following the workout.
The Phenix City school is one of only 30 in Alabama chosen to participate in the “Wee Can Fight Obesity” program which involves the Alabama Sports Festival, Alabama State University and the Governor’s Commission on Physical Fitness.
“We just got a call from the director of the Alabama Sports Festival and he asked if we wanted to participate and we did,” said physical education teacher Leigh Webb who went through training in Montgomery.
“We received $3,000 worth of equipment free,” said Greene. “You can’t beat that.”
The Wii Fit Plus Bundle, a movement/motion based gaming system, comes with a variety of software.
Webb said this is a six-week program. Seventy Sherwood third-graders have been divided into two groups that meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays for a 30-minute workout. There is no gym at the school so sessions are conducted in the media center. The workout is done in socks. Shoes are removed at the media center door.
Webb said each student had their weight, height and BMI (body mass index) measured before the Wii program began. The BMI will be checked at the end of six weeks.
“It really pumps me up,” said Jackson of the workouts.
Kanya Perry feels the same way. “It’s something different,” she said, wiping perspiration from her brow. Kanya said the aerobics portion was good but “the dancing is what’s fun.”
“The kids really leave here sweating,” said Brown as she watched the students sway their hips as though using a hula hoop.
And it’s not just the students getting into a fitness mode. Green leads a group of teachers with Wii after school.
A press release from the Alabama Sports Festival explains the reason for the program. Alabama, it says, historically ranks at the top among states with high incidents of obesity in children and that according to a Associated Press article, Alabama residents have been ranked among the least likely in the U.S. to use leisure time for exercise.
Additionally, a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control lists Alabama among the five states for least physical activity.
“We want the kids to begin a long commitment to physical fitness,” said Webb, who plans to get other grades involved next year. “This is a great way to do it.”