Gadsden City Schools combine academics, physical education in innovative new method

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First-graders at Oscar Adams Elementary play a game with the new Interactive Gym activities.

First-graders at Oscar Adams Elementary play a game with the new Interactive Gym activities.

A grant has given a couple of Gadsden elementary schools the chance to do something innovative and interesting.

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Adams Elementary and Floyd Elementary each recently began utilizing the money from the grant to combine academics and physical education into a unique learning experience.

Gadsden City Schools Superintendent Tony Reddick called the new initiative “interactive gym.”

A problem is electronically projected onto a wall that presents a question for a student. Once the student has decided on an answer, they must throw a ball and hit the choice on the wall that indicates the answer they decided on.

Reddick said the new method of learning via interactive games has been a big hit.

“Both teachers and students alike have been very excited by the variety of activities that are available at the push of a button,” he said. “It’s not just about turning the device on and playing games — it’s more like co-teaching with core instructors, keeping up with student lessons and collecting data.

“Both schools are serviced with the funds through our grant writing program and financial office,” he continued, noting that the units were in use and staff training was held the week before school ended.

The grant came from the State of Alabama; it’s a competitive innovation grant called the Strategies to Ensure Progress Initiative, according to Reddick.

Each school will get $150,000 for three years to merge innovation and curriculum, which falls in line with the system’s initiative  of “Innovation, Leading and Succeeding,” the superintenent said.

The system already was searching for new ways to help students learn, Reddick explained, so the grant came along at the right time.

“We were trying to find evidence-based, innovative techniques we thought our students would relate to,” he said. “We also wanted to identify a diverse and inclusive program that was adaptive enough for our entire school population. This program even allows our adaptive needs children to participate in physical education classes in ways they were not previously able to.”

Since this particular grant is funding interactive gym, Reddick said that the system will not be utilizing it for other new and inventive ways of teaching. However, that doesn’t mean Gadsden City Schools is not seeking other methods of innovation in school.

“We are currently seeking other grants for interactive floors to allow for movement in the classroom while implementing the curriculum,” Reddick said. “This same company (that installed the interactive system, Lü Interactive Playground) offers virtual dissection boards and other 21st-century learning tools that our students have yet to be exposed (to).”

In addition, the program has been such a success that it may not be limited to Adams and Floyd elementary schools.

“We are interested in having this program at our other elementary schools and possibly the middle schools, too,” Reddick said.

There already is at least one other new idea that the system hopes to have ready to go by the time the next school year starts.

“In the fall, in order to help with workforce development in our community, we intend to implement virtual driver training, enabling students to earn CDL (commercial driver’s license) and forklift certification,” Reddick said.

J.J. Hicks is a news reporter at The Gadsden Times. He can be reached at [email protected].

This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: “Interactive gym” a hit at Gadsden’s Adams, Floyd elementary schools