Students get their groove on with Disney dance party

The Great Lakes Elementary School gymnasium was filled with music and movement Wednesday -- children danced, hula-hooped, dribbled and passed soccer balls to pop tunes.

Radio Disney
Students at Great Lakes Elementary dance in the school gymnasium during the Radio Disney party they earned by having 100 percent participations in the Get Active, Get Fit School Challenge in October and November. (Maria Lockwood)

The Great Lakes Elementary School gymnasium was filled with music and movement Wednesday -- children danced, hula-hooped, dribbled and passed soccer balls to pop tunes.

"We're getting our Disney on," said Principal Cindy Magnuson.

Staying fit earned the school a Radio Disney party through the Get Active, Get Fit School Challenge sponsored by Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield. All 344 of the school's students made fitness a priority from Oct. 3 to Nov. 26. Each of them spent 20 minutes getting active at least 40 of the 55 days.

"We had 100 percent success," said Great Lakes physical education teacher Samantha Wilson. The entire challenge became a team effort, she said, with teachers, staff, students and parents stepping up to encourage activity. The focus was on lifetime fitness, Magnuson said, not just being in gym class or involved in a sport.

Encouraging students to get fit now is critical, Wilson said.


"One in three kids is obese," she said. "We have to teach it to the kids so they can take it home to their families. We want them to infect their families with fitness."

Currently, students in kindergarten and first grade have gym class three days a week, 30 minutes a day. Starting in second grade, they only get two gym classes a week.

"It's not enough," Magnuson said. "They could use it every day."

Many teachers have added fitness components to class, Wilson said. One class jumps rope every other day; others take quick trips outside. Younger classes take part in music and movement to get the wiggles out.

Students kept track of their daily activity during the two-month challenge and reported it to assistants every day in the lunch room.

"They all participated and they were all very honest," Wilson said. That led to many interesting conversations in the lunch room and pointed out activities students were already doing.

"I exercised a lot," said Alexia Hanson, 10. The fourth grader did jumping jacks, jumped rope and walked on city trails with her father.

Grace Hackensmith, 10, said she walked to the bus stop every morning and back home every afternoon.


"And I still do it every day," she said. In addition, Grace spent time playing tag and other games with her 4-year-old sister.

More than 130 Wisconsin schools and 30,000 children took part in the Get Active, Get Fit challenge, according to Anthem spokesman Scott Larrivee.

"It's really cool and it's a great program," he said. "And it's especially neat to see so many winners from across the state." The Superior school earned the dance party for being one of the top 20 schools. It also received $500 worth of gym equipment -- playground balls, jump ropes, beanbags and more -- to boost activity on the playground.

The purpose of the program, Larrivee said, was to get kids, families and teachers thinking about and practicing healthy lifestyles.

"We were thrilled to see participation from throughout the state," he said. "This truly was an event that got students, teachers and families moving."

On Wednesday, especially, students got a lot of movement in during the dance party.

"This is the encouragement that they need, the reinforcement," Wilson said. "There's rewards for stuff like this. Not only do we have lifelong fitness, we have a fun little dance party.

"It was a nice reward for them for all their hard work."

Maria Lockwood covers news in Douglas County, Wisconsin, for the Superior Telegram.
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