The William B. Tecler Arts in Education Magnet School gym was an erratic ocean of tiny bobbing children Monday afternoon.
Late last year the school scored a surprising second-place finish in the statewide Radio Disney Get Active, Get Fit Challenge. The prize — Monday’s dance party — served to reward the roughly 420 elementary students for months of voluntary exercise.
“It was pretty competitive,” said physical education instructor Colleen McHeard, who spearheaded the school’s effort.
As the kids filed in, she explained the general idea of the competition. Schools all across the state competed for the prize of most active student body. The goal was for each student to record at least 20 minutes of sustained physical activity with their family at home each day in October and November. Students tried to exercise 40 out of the 55 competition days.
Of all the schools in the state, Tecler came in second, right behind Holy Name School in Au Sable Forks, which is really something to dance about.
“This is a chronically low-achieving school,” McHeard said. “We usually get on lists for not great things. For the kids to beat out so many schools is really great.”
For their efforts, the school was rewarded with the dance party and $500 worth of gym gear, balls, hula hoops and the like.
“Are you ready for a dance party?” shouted one of three high-energy women representing Radio Disney.
A tumult of high voices responded. They led the kids in various easy-to-master dance moves set to some of the tamer top 40 hits. For extra entertainment, at one point a few teachers were roped into some improvisational dance right in front of their young students.
Dale Comely, a very game student teacher from SUNY-Oneonta, demonstrated a slightly self-conscious “sprinkler” move and another that made him resemble a gorilla.
“It’s not so bad,” he said, breathing hard. “I’m used to fooling around in front of my students.”
In fact, he felt the dance party and the whole Get Active program made his job easier. “If kids sit still for too long, they get kind of crazy,” he said as the students pounded up and down in what looked like a military style march. “I try to move them around in class as much as possible. They’re going to be easy to teach after this.”
According to Susan Stoya, director of secondary instruction at the school, the competition was part of a larger effort to change the definition of exercise in Amsterdam.
“When I went to school it was all competitive sports,” she said. “Now we’re trying to teach life fitness, like yoga or dance.”
Some of the kids were prime examples of the shift. Second-grader Nicole Turney rode her bike and went on walks with her family. Fellow second-grader Alexis Traskos just ran around her house and yard playing tag with her brothers.
All of it improved overall health, concentration in class and counted toward the dance party.