Health & Fitness

UN: Miami-Dade Schools’ PE program has transformed students’ fitness

Liana Martinez, left, and Suraia Akhter, both 11 and in 6th grade, climb the rock wall in the fitness center at Nautilus Middle School, 4301 North Michigan Av., on Miami Beach, Wednesday, November 23, 2011. Jayne Greenberg runs Miami-Dade County Public Schools' P.E. program on a shoestring, and is responsible for helping to get fitness centers, like this one, into Miami-Dade County Public Schools.
Liana Martinez, left, and Suraia Akhter, both 11 and in 6th grade, climb the rock wall in the fitness center at Nautilus Middle School, 4301 North Michigan Av., on Miami Beach, Wednesday, November 23, 2011. Jayne Greenberg runs Miami-Dade County Public Schools' P.E. program on a shoestring, and is responsible for helping to get fitness centers, like this one, into Miami-Dade County Public Schools. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

The United Nations chose Miami-Dade Public Schools’ physical education program as the U.S. model that other schools should emulate.

The program “transformed the focus of physical education from traditional sports to other activities that children and adolescents enjoy, setting a high standard for others to follow,” said the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in its 2015 report.

Dr. Jayne D. Greenberg, district director of physical education and health literacy, attributes the program’s success to its varied curriculum. Water sports, such as sailing and kayaking, are offered to the schools that express an interest in water-based workouts. The only requirement is that students must be at least 10 and have passed a swim test. The district has also added wellness teams to the middle and high schools, so students can have access to physical, social and emotional healthcare.

“We know if we emphasize student fitness, students will want to work toward the normal weight and BMI,” Greenberg said, addressing the issue of childhood obesity, which is reaching epidemic levels across the country.

According to the UNESCO study, 61 percent of the Miami-Dade students passed five out of six of the measures outlined in the FITNESSGRAM, an assessment of aerobic capacity, muscle strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition that is used by thousands of schools in the country.

Additionally, the study concluded the students from Miami-Dade Schools “became more inclusive and worked together more,” and also saw “positive changes in nutrition and attitudes.”

The study surveyed more than 300,000 Miami-Dade students ages 5-18 in the 2011-2012 academic year.

“We’re just so honored to be recognized as a model physical education program for the United States of America,” Greenberg said.

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