Music blared as third-graders at Brownstown Elementary School glided around the gymnasium.
Some went perfectly around the cones set up in the center of the gym and were either putting their hands up or bending down toward the floor.
Some struggled to stay on their feet and tumbled to the floor or put their hands out as they headed toward a wall.
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Skatetime was a chance for those with roller skating experience to sharpen their skills, while those new to it were able to give it a try.
Gracie Fisher, 9, said her mother taught her how to roller skate about a year ago. At first, she said she kept getting hurt when she fell. But now, she is able to stay on her feet and glide along with ease.
“I got to help a lot of my friends learn how to skate,” she said of participating in Skatetime during Jennifer Schneider’s physical education class. “It was really fun to help them because they were falling a lot, and I didn’t want them to get hurt. It helps you to stay on your feet and not ever give up.”
Ethan McMurdie, 9, said he had practiced skating before, which helped him stay balanced while skating during Skatetime.
“It helped me learn more stuff about skating, like turning,” he said. “When you’re skating, you can turn back and forth, and it’s really hard. I’m not there yet, but I keep trying and trying, and I think it’s helping a lot.”
Kenneth Hurley, 8, said he had skated with rollerblades before, but the ones at school are quad skates.
“My mom and dad taught me how to stop and go faster, but with these skates, I wasn’t very good,” he said. “I had a lot of challenges with turning and stopping.”
Jayda Clodfelder, 8, said she had skated before, but she doesn’t do it very often. She was glad to be able to do it with her classmates.
“When I was going fast, I like that. I like the wind,” she said with a big grin.
This was the sixth year for Schneider to offer Skatetime for her students. Third- and fifth-graders participated the first two years, but it has since been solely for third-graders.
The skates are rented from Skatetime School Programs of Indianapolis. Parents signed a permission slip and paid a $7 rental fee for the program, allowing their child to skate once a week for 30 minutes during PE. It actually costs $9, but Schneider said she seeks funds to make it a little cheaper for the kids.
“The students look forward to it in PE when they get to third grade,” she said. “Some students may never get an opportunity to skate in their lifetime. But now that we have been providing this program here, they get that chance.”
In the first of five sessions, Schneider teaches students about safety, basic skills and care of equipment.
The next week, she reviews basic skills, such as standing in skates (T-stance), forward skating and stopping in skates (T-stop).
During the third week, she teaches students how to turn (the forward crossover) and continues to review basics.
The fourth week has more fundamentals and crossover turns while learning backward skating and circling.
Then in the final session, Schneider lets the students continue practicing what they’ve learned and put their skills to test with the hokey-pokey.
“At first, most start out a little uncoordinated, just getting the feel for skates on their feet,” Schneider said. “Once I see them in motion and starting to gain momentum on their skates, I see they are getting the hang of it. I like to see them all up and moving in their skates, no matter their skill level.”
For those with limited experience, Schneider said roller skating provides several benefits.
“It teaches them the basic fundamentals of skating,” she said. “Learning how to balance in roller skates is a biggie. Once they can balance while on wheels, they can then learn how to put that into motion. Transitioning from one foot to the other in a forward motion is the basic forward skating movement. Once coordinated enough to do that, they begin grasping the technique of skating.”
Skating also is good for balance and coordination and is a great way to exercise, Schneider said.
“It’s a great cardiovascular workout for everyone,” she said. “So if they already know how to skate, they are getting the health and exercise benefits from it.”
Schneider said it’s fun to watch the third-graders skating around the gymnasium, and she even puts on a pair of skates and glides along with them.
“I get to be the one to see the excitement on their faces each time they get to skate,” she said. “Again, no matter their skill level, whether it’s the thrill or the challenge of skating, they all seem to be enjoying every minute of it.”
Even though the program is over at school, Schneider said she hopes the students still find time to skate.
“The most important thing to take away from this experience is the enjoyment of skating,” she said. “If you enjoy doing something, you’ll want to continue to doing it. It’s a skill you can learn at a very young age and continue doing for a lifetime.”
Skatetime School Programs provides schools with the equipment and tools they need to get students up and rolling.
Schools schedule a five- or 10-day block of time and provide shoe sizes for students. Parents sign a permission slip and pay a rental fee.
Skatetime sends a step-by-step how-to guide, including lesson plans, an instruction manual and a free video.
If a school is offering Skatetime for the first time, a skate instructor helps with setup and organization of the equipment and will stay the entire day and give basic instruction to each class.
According to skatetime.com, the mission of the program is “to provide every child in America equal opportunity to excel as athletes. Together, we can mold a generation that is conscious of the importance of wellness and fitness.”
Roller skating is the perfect way to combine fitness with fun. It helps people develop a fitness habit with a sport that’s enjoyable for all ages.
The children of this generation are really the first to grow up in the age of fitness. Much research and emphasis has gone into the importance of lifetime health programs. Children learn early the benefits of staying healthy and in good physical condition. But with children, regular workout programs aren’t quite what they need. Enjoyment is the key ingredient in every sport or exercise program, especially for children. Roller skating provides just that.
Roller skating is:
- A fun way to increase muscular strength and cardiorespiratory endurance (burn anywhere from 330 to 600 calories per hour)
- Great for improving strength, balance, agility, coordination and flexibility
- A source of aerobic exercise (low impact for joints)
- A key to weight control (involves all major muscle groups)
- Easy to learn
- A great tension reliever and enthusiasm builder
- Equivalent to jogging in terms of health benefits, caloric consumption, reduction of body fat and leg strength development.
- 50 percent less impact shock to joints compared to running, according to a study conducted at the University Of Massachusetts
Both the American Heart Association and the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports recommend roller skating as a great fitness activity for people of all ages.