PINELLAS PARK — For Tiffany Williams and Allison Swank, their wellness education class of 13 students at Pinellas Park Middle School on Friday was an epicenter of innovation.
A monitor showed a PowerPoint presentation that included a video featuring Bucs quarterback Tom Brady. Words like “foldability” were written on a whiteboard. The foam rollers vibrated, the flexibility spheres rolled, and the instructions explained the fundamental movements to relax the muscles of their eighth graders.
Pinellas Park Middle School is one of 10 pilot schools in the district — four high schools and six middle schools — incorporating Brady’s TB12 method into their health and wellness program this year. Through a partnership between Pinellas County Schools, the Pinellas Education Foundation, and the TB12 Foundation, there is now a semester course in middle schools and a one-credit course in high schools.
Pinellas County Schools is the first district in the nation to revise its curriculum to include Brady’s holistic approach to wellness with the help of TB12 certified body coaches, the district said in a news release.
“For us to get a glimpse of what (Brady) has done to help him play for so long, I think that’s great,” Williams said of the 45-year-old quarterback, who is in contention for his 23rd season in the NFL. .
And they’re just getting started.
By next school year, PCS should roll out the program’s daily health habits to all of its middle and high schools, said Ashley Grimes, pre-K-12 health and physical education specialist.
“It wasn’t a thing 10 years ago…” Swank said. “Those are current trends, and we are not with adults doing this. We do it with children.
The TB12 method is a “paradigm shift,” Grimes said, from what teachers are used to. It takes a traditional physical education curriculum and innovates it. Additionally, Brady’s name produces “instant buy-in” among students, she said.
Swank, who worked in corporate fitness before becoming a teacher, knew most of the concepts behind the diet’s pillars — muscle flexibility, movement, nutrition, hydration and mental fitness — but only taught adults. Williams said she didn’t hear about foam rollers until she was in college.
Teaching these concepts to children may be easier than to adults, Swank said, because they are more open to new information. It’s important to take complex terms like flexibility and make them digestible, distilling them into familiar words and phrases.
“It’s something that’s not traditional,” Grimes said, “and it’s almost like (there’s) this excitement when it’s something new and different and it’s not the same , ‘Here’s a ball. Go play.'”
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Eighth graders have already noticed differences. Antoine James, a 13-year-old boy, said he liked the TB12 method because it helped relieve his cramps. Joshua Stroman, also 13, said when he first saw the foam rollers he thought, “I don’t think this is going to help me at all.” Next, one rolled out his hamstrings, relaxing his calves.
“So I liked that,” he said.
Swank and Williams started Friday’s session with the video and a quick explanation of flexibility before giving students time to experiment with the vibrating foam rollers. They then broke them down into four stations: planks, squats, side steps, and 90/90 single-leg balances.
One member of each group was assigned to note areas for improvement on the form, with sheets of paper containing written and visual cues. When they got to the various cones, Williams and the other coaches asked if everything was okay.
At the squat station, Stroman noticed that his group’s knees were turning outward and the shoulders were trailing back.
Toward the end of the session, Williams and Swank asked each group to look at their clipboard and come back for a second rotation to the move they thought needed the most work. After conducting a discussion with his group, Stroman vouched for his decision to redo his squats.
Such moments reflect the unique elements of this program — where students make choices as part of self-assessment, unlike other instances where teachers might dictate those options, Grimes said.
“We all got it,” Stroman said afterwards. “They took him down.”
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