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Bridgewater-Raritan – Developing Fitness Advocates at All Levels

Bridgewater-Raritan School District (11 Schools), Bridgewater, New Jersey

School Contact: Gregory Filipski

Getting Started

The Bridgewater-Raritan School district in New Jersey is full of PYFP fitness advocates. It took some time to get there, though, as physical education teacher Gregory Filipiski can attest. For the 11 schools in the K-12 district, momentum had to build for the Presidential Youth Fitness Program (PYFP) to take hold. Gregory led the district-wide PYFP initiative by applying for and introducing the program’s funding opportunity.

“We used the grant funding as a way to implement the program [PYFP] within our district and gain access to the FitnessGram®,” Gregory said. With that start-up cost removed, the administrators at Bridgewater-Raritan dedicated significant funding to the purchase of fitness testing equipment for the full implementation of PYFP throughout the district. “Once it’s set up, it’s easy to maintain,” said Gregory, who has seen PYFP’s expansion in his school district. He added, “If anyone is motivated, it’s also easy to learn [PYFP].”

Several of the schools in Gregory’s district had already individually conducted some FitnessGram assessments with students. Other schools in the district either lacked sufficient fitness testing tools or used a variety of other assessments that were not linked to health outcomes. Simply put — the district lacked a cogent district-wide fitness-testing program.

Prior to implementation [of PYFP] there was no way to compare performance in the district or provide relevant individualized fitness information to students. Gregory said, “What everyone loves about FitnessGram is the relevancy of the data it provides to students about their individual fitness/health … the PYFP integration with FitnessGram is seamless.” Getting the grant kick-started the process, and with the “tools on the PYFP website, we were easily able to run our program.”

Up and Running

For the first year of the funding opportunity, Gregory said the teachers chose to put their energy into getting a general introduction to the program; as they moved through the year, they quickly got the hang of it. In their second year, PYFP professional development training served as a catalyst for understanding the breadth of all of the program’s resources (PDFs, downloadable instructional videos) that are provided on the PYFP website.

“We got to talk about why PYFP works in the training, and what the Healthy Fitness Zones mean.” Gregory affirms that this is what led to the real buy-in from the staff. He said, “PYFP has raised the bar for everyone on our staff and given teachers a common language regarding the components of fitness.” He added, “I’ve seen myself grow and improve in a positive direction.”

This “common language” of PYFP has enabled the teachers of the Bridgewater-Raritan school district to communicate more with students and parents, as well as leverage the data as proof of students’ personal progress. This, Gregory will tell you, “drives healthy decision-making so students have healthier habits … When we give the students access to see the data, they become more engaged and interested.”

What Comes Next

The implementation of PYFP has become the model for many other areas at Bridgewater-Raritan, and it has empowered teachers and students to make positive changes. “PYFP gave the district Health and Physical Education staff a unified purpose,” Gregory explained. “We are a district that came from a sport-based curriculum. To add this fitness program [PYFP] gives students the ability to inform their personal decisions.”

Sometimes it’s not enough to talk about the long-term benefits or consequences of an action — you have to show it. As Bridgewater-Raritan gears up to enter year three of PYFP funding, the district has a plan to arm students with PYFP’s research-proven tools so that they can track their own progress. “We have the data following the kids, and once our current elementary students reach high school, they’ll have a decade of data upon which to base decisions.” Gregory’s hope, shared by his fellow educators, is that by arming the students with this data, students will have the interest and know-how to self-assess their health and wellness long after they leave school, and that doing so will become a regular habit. “How do you teach the efficacy of personal fitness habits without PYFP? It’d be like a math teacher not using decimal points,” Gregory laughed.

With many years as a health and physical education teacher under his belt, Gregory recognizes that “not all schools will use the program for the same reason.” Nor will they have the same goal. He believes though, that the PYFP will “make participating schools fitness advocates.” Gregory also believes that “PYFP is the gold standard” for fitness education and assessment, and he’s seen how the access to this relevant data can make fitness advocates out of non-believers.