GreatLIFE-driven gym class leads to new after-school program

May 14, 2018

This piece is presented by GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness.

When Westside Christian School opened last school year, physical education class had to be figured out.

The school at 2601 W. 69th St. needed a program but didn’t have funding.

That’s when GreatLIFE Golf & Fitness stepped in to try a pilot program taught by GreatLIFE trainers Mike Smith and Greta Gildemeister.

“We developed a curriculum with them using the statewide curriculum as a guide, and then we meshed our Play Everything program into it,” GreatLIFE director of fitness Nick Ovenden said.

Play Everything is GreatLIFE’s approach to connecting movement patterns.

“Whether you’re throwing a baseball, kicking a football, swinging a bat, it’s all similar patterns,” Ovenden said. “It’s connecting dots for kids to get them involved in as many activities as possible. If you find something they enjoy, they will stay active all their life.”

But GreatLIFE’s gym class doesn’t just take place in a gym. The 25 students at Westside are treated to expert instruction and on-site experiences.

“We believe in bringing outside people in, so we involved athletes at USF and Augustana to teach units. For golf, we have a golf pro teach the unit. For swimming, we bring them to Woodlake Athletic Club where a certified swim instructor teaches it,” Ovenden said.

For bowling, the class goes to GreatLIFE Suburban Lanes.

For skating, it’s the Scheels IcePlex.

“It’s very cool,” Ovenden said. “It’s a lot of coordinating, but they get more out of it.”

The change in students has been incredible, principal Brenda Hill said.

“When they go out for recess now, they’re playing baseball. They’re playing catch. During the volleyball unit, they’re out there doing bumps to each other,” she said. “Whatever they’re doing in PE, they’re doing during recess. It’s been pretty exciting to see the changes in the kids.”

The approach has been so successful, Westside and GreatLIFE are integrating it into an after-school program this coming school year.

“We’re planning to call the after-school staff ‘coaches,’ ” Hill said. “A lot of it will be similar to any after-school program, where kids will get a snack and work on homework, but they will also be playing outside or in the gym doing as many skills as possible.”

Eventually, the school would love to see families become involved in physical activity with kids through the school, she said.

There’s a good chance to start this week.

Westside will hold a fun event for families from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday featuring inflatables, a GreatLIFE-organized family challenge course and food. It’s a chance to learn more about the collaboration, the after-school program and a new preschool program that’s starting in the fall.

“It’s kind of an ongoing pilot program, but it’s something we could see growing,” Ovenden said. “We would like to partner with different PE programs to help them and show what we’re doing and get some of that curriculum out there to take the stress off PE departments and get the community more involved.”

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GreatLIFE-driven gym class leads to new after-school program

A physical education program piloted by GreatLIFE is expanding into after-school activities.

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