Muscling up classroom resources

National trends show that body image and nutrition are top concerns for today’s youth.

Bruce Grossman confronts these concerns every day as the physical education teacher at James Garfield Phoenix Academy #31.

We learned a lot about Bruce’s work to improve the health and wellness of IPS students after he sent the Foundation a note of thanks for a grant we awarded him to purchase new medicine balls.

“I applaud your acknowledgment that these students need to develop healthy bodies as well as healthy minds,” Bruce wrote us. “Thank you for supporting IPS and our students!”

Bruce started pursuing the purchase of medicine balls after a FITNESSGRAM testing in the fall of 2012. He noticed that too many of his students had body mass indexes indicating they were either seriously obese or significantly underweight.

Bruce also learned that his kids scored lowest in the push-up portion of the fitness test. He vowed to improve his students’ upper-body strength with exercises that would burn calories for his heavier students and build muscle for the slighter kids.

“We try to be creative because resources are slim,” Bruce says.

The first plan was to put students on a strict push-up regimen, but that didn’t get the results Bruce hoped for.

“Kids like doing exercises that don’t feel like work,” he says.

This is where the medicine balls come in. Bruce needed the exercise to be more fun, but he needed money his school didn’t have to make it happen.

After hearing about the IPS Education Foundation and our initiative, which provides matching grants to IPS classrooms in need, Bruce took a chance and started fundraising.

Thanks to our $400 matching grant, Bruce raised the money for the medicine balls in just one week!

Today, about one-third of Bruce’s fitness class is dedicated to using medicine balls. Most frequently, the kids pair up to play catch, tossing the weighted balls back and forth and building that upper body strength.

Bruce says he’s excited to compare the 2012 fitness test results with those from later in 2013. He’s optimistic the medicine balls will prove to be worth their weight in gold.

With a value like that, Bruce says his mind is already running with ideas for his next grant project with us.