Exercise Program Moves Kids to Reach Their PEAK

A revolution is happening Saturday mornings on the Radford University campus, and it’s been going on for decades. The revolutionaries’ goal:  to coax elementary school children away from Saturday mornings in front of the TV and get them moving.

Called PEAK—Physical Exercise and Activity Kamp—the project brings children ages 5 to 10 to the Peters Hall gymnasium, where Radford students in the Department of Exercise, Sport and Health Education coach them in indoor soccer, floor hockey and basketball as well as in recreational activities such as scooter races and parachute games.

Jon Poole and Susan Miller, professors in the College of Education and Human Development, direct the program.

“Believe it or not, the program started back in the late 1970s and early 1980s with (now) retired professor Steve Ames as one of the key leaders,” Poole said. “His own children went through the program, and 25 years later we had his grandkids come through.”

Particpants in the PEAK program

RU students and young dancers boogie to the beat in a Saturday morning exercise session in Peters Hall.

Everybody wins, Poole said. Radford University students who plan to be educators gain real-world experience teaching children, while the youngsters have the opportunity to play and exercise at well-equipped, well-supervised activity stations.

“The biggest benefit for our students is getting a chance to try their hand at teaching young children,” Poole said. “Over the years we’ve seen a definite trend toward younger children” as PEAK participants.

“My guess is, once kids reach 9 or 10 years old, they tend to be involved in organized youth sports on the weekend and our program is less attractive, thus we tend to have mostly 5- to 7-year-olds,” he said. The chance for our students to work with those young children is invaluable.”

Radford students studying to become teachers are required to spend 50 hours working with children in some capacity before applying to the teacher education program. Radford faculty members in the physical education teacher preparation program plan and organize the Saturday morning activities and assign RU students to lead them.

Physical education major and PEAK teacher Aimee Veatch, on track to graduate in 2012, said she enjoys seeing the youngsters’ progress each week. “We learn it in our classes, but it helps to see it in person,” she said.

Taking part in the Dance Dance Revolution game Saturday were youngsters Ashley and Colette. Ashley said one of her other favorite Saturday activities is the climbing wall. She said she likes the RU students who help out. “They’re good,” she confided. Colette was less specific but just as enthusiastic: “I like to learn,” she declared.

This semester’s PEAK program, with about 20 youngsters participating, will run through Nov. 12. A new session will start in the spring.

The PEAK registration fee is $25 for four weeks of two-hour sessions. “This equates to just over $3 per hour, which is pretty hard to beat for parents,” Poole said. The fee covers basic costs. Because RU students and faculty members volunteer their time, all funds can be used for items such as a Wii.

The spring session will begin in late February and will be open to all children in the New River Valley. To learn more about PEAK and for registration information, email Poole at jpoole@radford.edu or Miller at smiller64@radford.edu.