SUMMERSIDE – More than 80 participants showed up at Greenfield Elementary School on a recent Saturday morning to take part in a session of Zumba exercise
The Greenfield Home and School Association arranged the session as one of a series of activities to promote parent engagement. Association president Jana Weatherbie came up with the idea after attending the P.E.I. Home and School Federation (PEIHSF) semi-annual meeting last fall with fellow member Virginia Doyle.
They learned about the SHAPES survey (School Health Action Planning and Evaluation System that collects data on physical activity, healthy eating, mental fitness, as well as tobacco, alcohol and drug use), which seemed to indicate that girls didn’t get as much exercise as boys. Weatherbie thought that inviting an exercise program of some sort to the school would be a good idea as part of an ongoing parental engagement effort to foster community in the school.
The PEIHSF provided a grant to help foster parental engagement, and the idea coalesced in the form of a Zumba class led by volunteer Megan Likely, a fitness instructor at Credit Union Place.
“We wanted to introduce something that was fun for the kids to do, in a comfortable environment,” Weatherbie explained.
She is not a Zumba participant herself, but had met Likely at the Fit Stop at Credit Union Place, having done Pilates with her previously, and she keeps active in other ways.
“We wanted something that parents and children can come and have fun (doing) together,” Weatherbie said.
Likely said her intention was to “spark the love” for fitness, and show that it is fun as she promotes active living for the whole family.
The Zumba session was one of a series, which was followed the next week by a demonstration of kettle bells.
“It’s kind of weights, so we figured the boys would be interested in that,” Doyle described, but emphasizing that was only one consideration at participation. Weatherbie has done kettle bells and vouched that it is a good program.
A session on learning to ride a bike is set for Saturday, May 17, to which the whole community is invited.
Other activities, including a literacy fair, a fun run, and a bike safety day are on the agenda before the end of the school year, Doyle added.
There is no consideration of promoting the activities as part of the regular physical education component at the school, but Weatherbie noted that Likely was planning a Zumba program for kids at Credit Union Place. She recognized that the session at the school could encourage some families to attend that, which would substantiate the parental engagement intention of the activities.
“If it works out, maybe we can plan to do something with (Likely) in the future,” Weatherbie considered.
Likely says she is the only instructor in Summerside certified to teach Zumba for kids, and the Greenfield school session was a sample of what is possible for 4 to eleven-year-olds.
Doyle and Weatherbie worried that a Saturday morning, in the midst of a school long weekend, and having sunny, warm conditions dawning with the day, might lead interests elsewhere, but were pleased with the response and especially that parents or other guardians came out with their kids as they were encouraged to do.
“That’s kind of the point to it was the parental engagement: to get parents and kids out exercising together,” Doyle affirmed.