Bexley City Schools educators believe a new BalletMet program "Warm Up with Dance," will help improve overall physical fitness among students in the school district.

Bexley City Schools educators believe a new BalletMet program "Warm Up with Dance," will help improve overall physical fitness among students in the school district.

On Nov. 19, BalletMet trainer Katy Tombaugh Henn, a professional dancer certified by the American Council on Exercise, demonstrated a teaching module for a third-grade class at Cassingham Elementary.

The goal of a district-wide program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade is to provide them an effective warm-up sequence that can be regularly used to prepare the mind and body for movement, said Melissa McCarthy, Cassingham physical education specialist.

The school district received a $3,500 grant from the Bexley Education Foundation to develop the program. The BalletMet program provides exercises in four main categories: dynamic stretching and cardiovascular, strength and core, balance and flexibility.

"We learned different ways of warming up to prepare for movement that we are going to do during that class time," phys ed teacher Jill Welsh said.

She said students have a 35-minute physical education class that now starts with some sort of stretching or balance exercise to get the student's body read for movement. The program takes about seven minutes.

"The kids really enjoy it," Welsh said, and come in asking if they get to stretch that day. "It is just something different to do. It is kind of refreshing the exercise physiology knowledge that we learned 20 years ago. It is very useful in our classes."

"BalletMet designed and developed a curriculum, conducted professional development workshops with the physical education teachers to provide them with continuing education and gave them materials that would be really relevant," Henn said.

Teachers participated in two BalletMet workshops to go over the components of the curriculum, presented their lesson plans to one another and solicited feedback from the BalletMet professionals about their teaching.

The program works so well because dance has a mind-body connection, Henn said.

"Everything we do helps to develop student motor skills," she said. "There is a strong mind-body connection. I think there is a misconception that dance is tutus and point shoes."

BalletMet has designed similar programs for other school districts, but the Bexley program offered a rare opportunity to work with students and teachers. This is the first time the organization has worked with a physical education department.

"For us it was really neat to see dance given the same consideration," Henn said.

BEF director Charlene Morgan said the program affects a significant number of students (1,600); incorporates two areas of the curriculum the fine arts and physical education; supports the district's goals and priorities, including the Developmental Assets program, which teaches students how to monitor their physical growth.

"It integrates fine arts (dance) into Bexley's overall educational program which has not been done," Morgan said.

Through the program, students will be able to set personal, age-appropriate goals for physical education related to growth and align warm-up activities to those goals, she said.