Monday :: May 5, 2008

School Responds To Ridiculous Gym Class Project

by Jeff Dinelli

My daughter's school responded to my questioning the safety and intelligence of their gym class project that measured "ideal" body weight and fat percentage of 12-year-olds. The response came not from the administration but the PE teacher herself, who is obviously required by the state of Illinois to teach nutrition and exercise, but apparently is free to develop her own methods.

As an aside, if anyone can make any sense out of the first sentence, please help me out. Where do these people get degrees? By the way, the last I heard of this woman she was running the local bowling alley.

Mr. Dinelli,

As far in any other class I have State goals that I must show that I address. Some of these goals are based on activities we do in class and some are based on health related fitness components. In these goals students have to set goals, develop these goals, implement them and monitor themselves. Some goals are to know and apply physiological principles, understand principles of health promotion, among other things. You may look at the State goals for physical Education and health on the State website,, which I listed for you.

The objective of my project is to let the students find out appropriate weight, find their percentage of body fat, find their target heart rate zones, assess their fitness levels, learn about the Food Pyramid and see if they follow proper nutritional habits. I do not tell the students what they should weigh. On the website, (and I stated in class), the weight calculator is a tool, it states right on the site that weight may fall in a window between 10% higher or lower. I do not tell the students to change their eating habits, in fact I told them not to change the way they eat for this assignment. I want them to make observations about what they actually do and see if they need to make some adjustments. This is all done on their own, other than the fitness tests we will take in class. I do not share personal information with other students, so if this has been done it has not been by me. Projects are turned in and graded only by me. I am not trying to embarrass any students, but trying to provide information for the students that may be used as a life-long learning skill. The students make their own conclusions and change whatever they think needs to be done. It is just a self-assessment of their lifestyles and fitness levels.

I do realize that there are concerns for under and overweight people in our society. I am trying to provide our students with some tools that they can use later in life that may help them not be one of those statistics.

(Gym teacher)

The first thing you may realize is that her "link" gets you nowhere. I tried to search around, looking for Illinois State Physical Education Goals, Illinois Learning Standards, Physical Development and Health, Goal 22, etc., but came up empty as far as using a "weight calculator" to determine "ideal" weight according to height and age, or body fat percentage use.

She seems to be telling the kids to use the weight calculator, though it's wildly inaccurate, and don't change what you eat, but carefully count your caloric intake during the project. The projects are for her eyes only, but on the actual instructions my daughter brought home, there is mention of a "display" of results, not to mention all the kids somehow know everyone else's scores from the weight calculator. Plus I'm getting conflicting reports from what my daughter and her friends tell me as far as how they determined their weight in the first place. They all talk about "forming a line" before the calculation, so I'm assuming they weighed in as a class.

So what do you think? Again, I have no problem with teaching children, even at this delicate age, about nutrition and exercise. On the other hand, I see no mention of the psychological effects of struggling with weight issues. From what I understand, eating disorders usually begin around this awkward, tweener / early-teen age.

She says one objective is to "let the students find out appropriate weight," then in the very next sentence declares "I do not tell the students what they should weigh."

It seems like a teacher hiding behind nebulous "state guidelines" which she can't provide a proper link for, and an administration, in this case the Vice Principal, who is ducking the whole thing. A friend of mine, who is a parent involved, is going to try and schedule a meeting with the VP tomorrow, having had trouble with this PE teacher a couple of times this year stemming from rampant harassment in class and assignments that made no sense at all. I remember a couple of them. One was a test on football, memorizing positions and the names of common pass routes. My friend couldn't make any sense of it, and he played the sport through high school. His daughter, and mine, and 75% of the class, all flunked the test, though it didn't make any sense to any adult who knew anything about football. I wish I still had that damn test.

I'm digressing. What to make of this response dear readers? Personally I'm even angrier than I was before. This is not an optional assignment. If any kid chooses not to participate, the teacher told the class not only will he/she get a zero, but will complete it at some point or not get any credit for the class.

Jeff Dinelli :: 10:28 PM :: Comments (58) :: Digg It!