DOWNEY - Answering the call of First Lady Michelle Obama for kids, their families, and communities to break the Guinness Book of World Records for the most people jumping jacks in a 24-hour period, West Middle School promptly scheduled its 5th-6th period students to do their jumping jacks on Tuesday, and its 1st-4th period kids to do the prescribed one-minute jumps on Wednesday.The program is jointly sponsored by the First Lady, National Geographic Kids, and locally by Jamba Juice, entitled "Team Up for a Healthy America." West Middle School's response, involving the total school population of some 1,400 middle schoolers, was part of a worldwide attempt to break the current record of a little over 20,000 people doing one-minute jumping jacks. Here in the U.S., the event serves to underscore the First Lady's earlier exhortation to "Let's Move!"-in an effort to encourage the average American, including kids, to "get healthy and active." Her message this year is "Let's Jump!"-specifically to bring awareness to the obesity problem and the necessity for people to be up and truly active, for their sake. All worthy goals which West Middle School has pursued over these years anyway, following state-aligned district policy - which has always espoused the wisdom of physical fitness for its students. At the same time, West's newly-minted principal, Alyda Mir, who until midsummer was the vice-principal at East Middle School, emphasized that West's overarching mission of nurturing students' efforts towards academic success always remains paramount. Possessed of a bachelor's in liberal studies from Cal Polytechnic State in San Luis Obispo and a master's in educational administration from Cal State Long Beach, as well as a Delta Kappa Gamma member, she taught math and science previously, also at West Middle, from 2006 to 2008. To achieve the school's physical fitness goals for its students, its physical education department, under department chair Sean McConnell, over these years has consistently stressed the importance of the major areas of muscular strength, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness, among other things. This, he says, is accomplished through a variety of exercises, including pushups, situps, vertical jumps, selected track-and-field events such as the 100-metrer dash, and so on. Football, softball, soccer, and other "ball" games are on the regular schedule. Nary a murmur of dissent was therefore heard from the kids when the jumping jacks sessions were announced. As the various classes formed into groups of 50 or more on either day, effectively blanketing the basketball quadrangle, and after checking the attendance, McConnell instructed them to first do some limb and leg stretching, bending, and jogging in place, to make the muscles loose and supple. "Then I will blow my whistle," he announced, using a bullhorn. "The first whistle means you start your jump. Keep going until you hear the second whistle. Don't stop because once you do, your jumps don't count. Just keep on jumping jacks. At my second whistle, stop!" And so the kids, in a vigorous display of athletic movement, did their thing, accompanied by the apt rhythm of 'The Blue Sky', performed by the MegaMind. When the sun's heat was mentioned, McConnell said: "Oh, it'll take only a minute. They're used to this kind of thing. They work out every day, or at least do some stretching before every period even. We run twice a week. We push them harder than this." It should be mentioned that McConnell and librarian Julia Desalernos were the co-coordinators of the sessions, with Desalernos deciding to jump with the kids. When the first session was over, she promptly disappeared from sight. She was a little while later observed doing some extra stretching of her own, and for a while unnoticed. When kidded about her seemingly out-of-breath condition and her seemingly having to "walk it off," she said, goodnaturedly: "Well, I'm 53, for heaven's sake!" Mir also explained that kids who after school were to take part in jumping jacks activities at any of the area malls (Lakewood, Cerritos, etc.) would get extra points towards their 'School Cents' score. School Cents points lead to accumulated credits that may be used to purchase school supplies, etc. Final results of the jumping jacks event were yet unavailable at press time, but everybody seemed certain the world record would be broken. The last activity for the day was the West Library fundraiser in conjunction with Jamba Juice-12 oz. of jamba juices for $3. The special fundraiser will benefit the library, the kids, and the school.
********** Published: October 13, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 26