Anthropologists have discovered only a few years ago that, from the DNA scraped from bones, modern-day people (Homo sapiens) have about 2-4% of their ancestry derived from the Neanderthal people. We modern humans do not generally have to forage for our food as our ancestors did when they were hunters and gatherers.
But our digital society of computers, laptops, iPads, and smartphones has created problems that our ancestors never experienced. Early loss of vision and hearing, carpal tunnel syndrome, obesity, herniated discs in the back, and psychological stress caused by diminished social interactions, are all signs of using digital technology to excess.
To find a better balance between our need for digital learning and the search for a healthy body metabolism for all our students, teachers and staff are rewriting the physical education program for the elementary, middle, and high school grade levels. All the Edison schools will incorporate fitness/sports curriculum employing a five day rotating schedule with electives, wireless projectors and microphones connected to iPads and laptops, and an emphasis on fitness activities such as yoga and zumba.
Changes in the high schools will be the most extensive: new fitness centers are currently being constructed that will encompass 2500 square feet of high ceiling space in both Edison and JP Stevens high schools. Fitness equipment will be installed over the next few months that include: treadmills, ellipticals, bikes, stepper/stairways, leg curls and presses, shoulder presses, squat/calves, dumbbell sets, kettle ball set, fitness bars, yoga and exercise mats.
The fitness centers will require one more physical education teacher in each high school. Our classes in the gyms are currently overcrowded with two teachers and a 55-60:1 student to teacher ratio. Most high schools have a 35 to 1 student teacher ratio, and we expect the additional physical education teacher will reduce our ratio to 40-45:1. The fitness centers will accommodate about 30-40 students at one time, with two classes in the gym that will lessen the overcrowded classes.
Students will be enabled to choose from a greater array of fitness electives, and students at all levels will be more highly motivated to keep their bodies in shape, and counteract the baneful effects of a sedentary lifestyle. As the Latin poet Juvenal stated, “Mens sana in corpore sano”, a healthy mind in a healthy body.
Frank Heelan, Ed.D, President
Edison Board of Education