By Stacey Reed
Lakeridge Junior High School”s fitness room looks more like a mini health club these days, with students circulating from stair steps to leg presses to treadmills for their daily dose of fitness.
“I really like it, you can hang out with your friends and work out together,” said ninthgrader Olivia Dayton.
The National School Fitness Foundation recently gave Lakeridge Junior High School cutting-edge weight machines and cardiovascular/aerobic equipment.
The foundation provides 100 other Utah schools with weight equipment like this, but with the help of BYU, NSFF and Lakeridge Junior High, BYU is conducting the first-ever objective study on the equipment and its effectiveness in strength training as part of physical education curriculum.
In addition to the study, Lakeridge also serves as a research field and model school for university students and graduate students in the physical education program at BYU.
Mel Olson, program director of pedagogy (the art and science of teaching) at BYU and overseer of the ”model school” project, said students get the opportunity to observe classes, be mentored by other teachers, suggest changes and even instruct at Lakeridge.
Olson said the American Alliance of Health Physical Education Recreation and Dance honored BYU”s pedagogy program as one of the top programs in the country last spring.
“This kind of program is unique because not many universities give their students this kind of a lab situation,” Olson said. “The department is looking for more opportunities for the university to work with schools and to join hands with programs, especially beneficial programs.”
BYU”s established relationship with Lakeridge helped BYU join hands with NSFF and conduct the strength-training curriculum research project with the new exercise equipment.
“The main question being asked is: do physical fitness changes occur when there are changes in the fitness program?” said Pat Vehrs, research coordinator for the project and associate professor in exercise physiology at BYU.
The program is not only designed to measure physical changes, but overall excitement and interest in physical education, Vehrs said.
“The equipment will help them develop lifetime skills, knowledge and experience,” he said.
Vehrs said unlike before, when students couldn”t do any pull ups at the beginning of the year and still couldn”t do them at the end, the students can assess their improvement – like being able to lift more weight than when they started.
“I am confident about myself after I work out and I know I can do more when I am playing sports,” said ninth-grader Dallin Burgon.
The nation is in great alarm with the recent reports regarding obesity, said Glenna Padfield, Lakeridge Junior High”s department chairwoman, who also teaches physical education at BYU.
The American Obesity Association reports that 30 percent of youth ages 12 to 19 are overweight and 16 percent are obese.
“Our plan is to get kids involved so they want to participate in physical activities in their leisure time, instead of watching TV or playing video games,” Padfield said.
Todd Pennington, assistant professor in physical education teacher education at BYU, said it”s most important that the study leads to a change in attitude towards physical activity.
“The overall goal in physical education is to increase life-long fitness and have the kids want to participate in physical activity outside of school,” Pennington said.
Not only do the weight machines influence the students to enjoy physical fitness, but so do the variety of activities offered at Lakeridge.
Rock climbing, table tennis, ultimate frisbee and in-line skating are some of the programs implemented to help create an ideal physical education experience for the teachers and the students, Pennington said.
“Research has shown that two things determine a student”s attitude towards physical education: the teacher and the curriculum,” Pennington said.
Lakeridge”s Principal, James McCoy, said the combination of university and public school faculty creates a great enthusiasm for teaching.
“I think this enthusiasm is being translated into the best practices in teaching: looking at innovative, instructional practices and pushing the envelope of designing instruction and curriculum,” he said.
McCoy said he believes one of the unique benefits of this program is that it”s research driven.
“The body of knowledge of best practices in physical education is being expanded…bringing out the very best in educational endeavor because research is what lays the ground work for change,” he said.