Health is a growing concern for parents and children throughout the nation. Childhood obesity has more than tripled in the last 30 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Public schools struggle to find the resources to help children, but with infrequent P.E. classes, educators have to think outside the box and ask for help. To supplement the health curriculum, some schools have partnered with outside organizations to bring yoga classes to students.
No Pain No Gain
Elaine Gil is the only gym teacher at P.S. 24, a large and growing dual-language elementary school in the heart of Sunset Park, Brooklyn. The 50-year-old bounds from class-to-class in her sweatpants, sneakers and t-shirt, teaching 40-minute periods for kindergarten through fifth graders, one after the other. Yet, of the 750 students at the school, only about 450 are able to take physical education in a given year because of limited space and money. And those who do, have gym class only once a week.
The loss of gym time in city schools is not new, but it’s become ever more urgent. Slightly more than half of the children in P.S. 24 have been found to be overweight or obese.
View Multimedia Slideshow First Graders Have 40 Minutes to Get Fit
Namaste in the Classroom
The students came in wearing sweatpants — some of them carrying bags from McDonald’s for breakfast — and slouched down on the floor. The gym in what was once Stuyvesant High School, a building both grand and a bit run down, is now home to the High School for Health Professions and Human Services. The basketball hoops were low with scuffed brown backboards. In one corner, two men were clattering behind yellow “caution” tape, and the loud sound of a power saw cutting through the wood floor was broken only by hammering and drilling. The students didn’t seem to mind the noise, though, as they chatted with one another and found a seat in the center of the room for first-period gym.
At the same time, in a small gym above the girls’ locker room, where the walls are lined with posters of male athletes playing football and basketball, the lights were off. Nine Easter egg-colored yoga mats were spaced out on the floor and the 11th graders atop them were moving through a series of classic yoga poses such as sun salutations and downward facing dog. One boy, 17-year-old Jack Irving, grunted audibly and half the class erupted in giggles. But compared to the construction noises in the gym class below, the yoga session was serene.
View Multimedia Slideshow Stretching Mind and Body