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Physical education in West Fargo schools comes into focus

Educators lay out how the district addresses the topic in schools

PHOTO: West Fargo, Sheyenne high schools installing new turf fields
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WEST FARGO — While academics are a focus in West Fargo Public Schools, so is students' physical well-being, and the West Fargo School District offers a wide range of classes to to help that along.

At the West Fargo School Board's Monday, Aug. 8, meeting, Curriculum Coordinator Nicole Seyfried and teacher Leah Swedberg gave the board a rundown of course possibilities at all three of the district high schools.

The physical education and health courses follow state and national standards for courses, which are guidelines for all students kindergarten through 12th grade.

"So, our kindergartners have the same aspirations, benchmarks that our students in high school do," Seyfriend said.

Seyfried said the curriculum is both skill and fitness based, and it aims to help students reach goals such as comprehending concepts, accessing resources, analyzing influences, decision-making, interpersonal communication, goal-setting and practicing health enhancing behaviors and advocacy.

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All ninth graders are required to learn CPR, and the district recently got a grant that allows them to be certified by the American Red Cross for a $5 fee.

"It's really cool that all of our high school students have those skills," Seyfried said.

The district offers classes such as introduction to physical education, high school health, advanced health, advanced strength, general physical education, individual and dual sports, aerobic dance, team sports, wellness in motion, dance jam, unified sports and triathlon.

This is the first year the advanced health class will be taught, and it is the first dual-credit health course to be offered in North Dakota as it counts for credit in the high school curriculum as well as for students who are taking classes because of an interest in working in public health.

The district also offers a course that pairs general education students with special education students to learn physical education. Teachers said they have seen the benefits to both groups of students in the class.

"So, it builds leadership skills with those students," Seyfried said. "It's an amazing thing if you get to watch these kids in person. It tugs at your heart to watch them work together."

"The special ed students get so much from them too," Swedberg said.

Some of the classes, such as the dance program, allow students to show off what they have learned. Swedberg said the class puts together a routine or several routines, and they perform onstage at the end of the course for friends and family.

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"A lot of times, the kids that are onstage are not typically kids that are onstage," Swedberg said. "It's a huge risk to them; they are terrified. It's nauseating when you're in it, but once you do it, you're on cloud nine. It's so rewarding."

Another class offers stretching and flexibility, and students not only do the activities but create some of their own programs to teach other students.

Triathlon is offered in the spring at West Fargo High School. Students at Sheyenne, where the course is not held due to low numbers, are welcome to attend the class at West Fargo High School. The students swim, run and bike and finish with the reward of a medal and T-shirt.

"I would say we have critical thinking in all of our classes" Swedberg said. "But in unified P.E., they have to think on their toes and address things that come up."

While the district is offering additional classes for health and physical education, there could still be more, the teachers said.

"I wish that West Fargo could have more intermurals, more low-stakes stuff," Swedberg said. "Maybe we need to do a better job of saying the weight room is open to everybody, it's not just athletes. Or, (that) the cardio room is open to everybody."

READ MORE FROM WEST FARGO EDITOR WENDY REUER
Some residents argue expansion would create increase in drugs and human trafficking

Readers can reach West Fargo editor Wendy Reuer at wreuer@forumcomm.com or 701-241-5530 . Follow her on Twitter @ForumWendy .

As the West Fargo editor, Wendy Reuer covers all things West Fargo for The Forum and oversees the production of the weekly Pioneer.
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