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Herald in the classroom

A peek inside gym class at Oceanside Middle School


In John Messina’s physical education classes, Oceanside Middle School students are on their feet — and sometimes, their hands — for the whole class period.

“The only time they’re sitting is 60 seconds for attendance,” Messina said proudly.

First, Messina leads the seventh- and eighth-graders in a typical gym class warm-up routine: jumping jacks, lunges, planks, mountain climbers and “burpees” — where students jump up, fall to a plank position, perform a pushup and repeat. He often has to remind students to “slow it down,” teaching them to do the workout correctly.

Then comes the different part, Messina noted. Rather than playing sports every class, he leads the students in partner exercises. At a 9:20 a.m. class last week, 18 students paired up and participated in all kinds of movements that build leg and arm strength, which also served as a productive cardio workout. Some of these included “leap frog,” partner planks and “wheelbarrows” across the width of the gymnasium.

Messina said this type of exercise teaches students ways they can be active in their daily lives, for the rest of their lives. “What we’re doing is physical education, not sports education,” Messina said. “They need something like this to keep in shape. Most won’t play sports when they get older.”

And Messina gets creative, changing it up — at one point, he sent students to run out the exterior door to a cone in the field and back. Then, he took students to the hallway to plank in a chain — each person would grab the ankles of the person in front of them to support them in their plank.

Seventh-graders Shanzay Shamoon and Kaitlyn Rey said the partner exercises make gym class fun. “Being able to do it with someone else, you get to socialize,” Kaitlyn said.

“We learn new things,” Shamoon added. “It makes me energized and more awake through the whole day.”