Local math teacher Monica Gonzalez, known to her students as "Ms. Monica", has transformed her second grade classroom into a CrossFit gym.
Ms. Monica's decision came after Miami-Dade County Public School's Chief Academic Officer Mary Rodero informed teachers that it was incumbent upon them to integrate physical activity into their lesson plans.
"While we believe that children benefit from sitting at desks for endless hours of test prep and drills, at some point the blood is going to pool at their feet," said Ms. Rodero. The administrator then issued a challenge to teachers to make their lessons address both their students' intellectual and physical needs. "For all of the children in our school system who aren't highly medicated, it can be tough to sit still for up to six-hour at a time preparing for mandatory state testing."
Unfortunately, explained Ms. Rodero, it is impossible for the county to mandate something that was compulsory for decades, like recess. "This is the age of Common Core. Our kids have to compete with the Chinese. If we bring back recess the next thing you know parents are going to demand we bring back art and music instruction, subjects that have absolutely no impact on our schools' ratings."
Ms. Monica's classroom (or "box"), now referred to as Crossfit CommonCore, is now strewn with mats, kettle bells and wooden boxes.
"Over here I have some tractor tires for them to roll around the room that we also use for geometry lessons. I have chin up bars which we use to practice our counting. And on these mats we do high intensity reps of cardio exercises while they recite their times tables." Each desk now boasts a set of free weights along with the Common Core workbooks. "They can fill out the answers as they do bicep curls with their non-writing arm," said Ms. Monica proudly.
Second grader Elsa Santiago says she is getting used to the system. "I can already do this many [she held out 4 fingers]push-ups," said the out-of-breath child. When asked what her favorite exercise is, the 7-year-old said "burpees" with a giggle. "I can do about 30 before I start to get a tummy ache."
When asked if it wouldn't have just been simpler to let the children out on the playground for 20 minutes every day, Ms. Monica explained that it wasn't an option.
"Taking 20 minutes away from classroom time would limit the amount of busy work the kids could complete. But then again, we could always send it home to the parents as homework."
By Altagracia/Photo by Karen Castillo Farfán/NPR