NEW YORK - Stimulating not only the mind but the body is a priority for NYC schools after a 2015-2016 study of 200 elementary schools revealed 96% were not meeting the state's recommendation for physical education.
Through a new initiative called PE Works, Mayor De Blasio has committed $100 million dollars to expanding PE curriculum and ensuring certified teachers are at every public school. The new program was first implemented at PS 33 in Queens Village in September.
"I've already seen an increase in the children working as teams as well as their self esteem being lifted," said Vincent Gatto, principal.
Teams of professional PE experts have also been visiting with individual schools to provide additional training and plot out personalized action plans.
"The key to make it successful for students is to motivate the teachers and the teachers being motivated bring it back to the students," Gatto said.
Strategic instruction involving teamwork and hand eye coordination were just a few of the skills Eyewitness News observed during a 5th grade PE class Wednesday.
"It's really fun, I think this is like my favorite subject," said Alexa Yglesias, one of the class participants. "I feel like last year we kind of did the same thing but this year we're doing a lot of different stuff."
"I really like this year because of the stations," said Claysiry Medina, a student. "Stations is really cool because there's like 6 different stations and we have two-to-three minutes at each station."
Educators say physical education is much more than the antiquated notion of "gym class" and research shows strong connections between fitness and academic achievement.
"Gym class is really fun and it's really cool to be in gym class especially with Mr. Sedlmaier because he's such a great gym teacher and he teaches us a new warmup and things that are really challenging," said Alicia Seetaram, a student.
"Physical education teaches you life long skills not just reading, math, and science," said Steven Sedlmaier, a PE teacher.
"The children of today grow up in a world where if they need something they can just touch a button," Gatto said. "Life is not about pushing buttons. Life is about movement, life is about succeeding, and life is about overcoming a hurdle."