West Ada school recognized for keeping kids active

MERIDIAN — The classic game Hungry Hungry Hippos has been taken off the kitchen table and moved into the gym at Victory Middle School.

It got an upgrade. It’s called Human Hungry Hippos.

Gina Janke has her sixth-grade students scattered across the gym ready to race and collect as many tennis balls as possible. Janke uses the game to teach balance, coordination and team work.

“This isn’t old school P.E. anymore,” Janke said, a physical education teacher at Victory Middle School. “It makes a difference when you make a connection with your students. They leave your class feeling good.”

The physical education program at Victory Middle School is receiving national attention for its commitment to school health and fitness. The school is among two Idaho schools and 525 schools across the country recognized as a Let’s Move! Active Schools National Award winner, chosen for efforts to keep students active and physically fit.

“I almost didn’t apply for the award because the application involved a lot of work and detail,” Janke said.

The awards goes to schools committed to integrating at least an hour of activity into students’ days — before, during and after school. Victory Middle School staff met five benchmarks: physical education, physical activity before and after school, physical activity during school, staff involvement and community and family engagement.

The P.E. department is made up of three teachers who believe in giving students options while learning about fitness and health.

Victory Middle School physical education teachers (left to right) Gina Janke, Scott Dew and Mandi Horning

Options given to students:

  • Basketball or volleyball before school.
  • Walking mileage club, flag football, soccer or tag during lunch.
  • Students are allowed to use their phones to track fitness and listen to music while exercising.

“I don’t always enjoy P.E., but my teacher knows how to make it fun,” said sixth-grader Ava Redman.

The school received nearly $4,000 in grants in 2016 from Fuel Up to Play 60, donorschoose.org and Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO). The funds help pay for equipment and class supplies.

“We look for strategies to get students on board with activities,” said Scott Dew, a physical education teacher. “We aren’t 100 percent successful, but we do the best we can. It’s not about the jocks, it’s about every one living a healthy lifestyle.”

West Ada’s Mary McPherson Elementary also received the Active School Award. Both schools will receive a display banner for its achievement, and a certificate.


Andrew Reed

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