The program was developed by Tim Hitzler who believes that students can do any work that benefits their community in order to earn their PE credits.
Physical education programs are all the same - you play a sport or participate in gym class and earn your credits. At least, that's what many thought. This innovative PE program from Dubuque, Iowa, flipped the script on its head and got students to help out the elderly and the disabled residents in the community. That's right. Students at the Alternative Learning Center are earning their PE credits by mowing the lawns of the elderly or disabled people, NPR reports. The ALC supports juniors and seniors who are at-risk of dropping out of school altogether and offers them project-based learning opportunities to earn their graduation.
Students at the Alternative Learning Center (ALC) in Dubuque, Iowa, can now receive physical education credit when they help senior citizens & people with disabilities with their landscaping needs. But those receiving help with their landscaping aren’t the only ones who benefit.— izzit.org (@izzit_org) March 6, 2020
Although schools typically give out PE credits for physical activity playing football, basketball, soccer, etc., this program takes an unconventional route from traditional learning methods and helps students pick up skills that could help them in their everyday lives. Describing the unique project on the official website, the Iowa Department of Education writes: "In Iowa, alternative education is a perspective, not a procedure or a program. It is based upon a belief that there are many ways to become educated, as well as many types of environments and structures within which this may occur." The program was developed by Tim Hitzler who believes that students can do any work that benefits their community in order to earn their PE credits.
"Further, it recognizes that all people can be educated and that it is in society's interest to ensure that all are educated," Hitzler shared, adding that he's usually with the students when they go about their work. "The students and I ... come out and help. Could be raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, cleaning gutters, just depends on what they need," he said, according to KWWL News. The PE program also helps students gauge the ground realities of their neighborhood as they get to witness the living conditions of those in the region. As they work with the elderly and the disabled, kids turn out to be more empathetic and compassionate, the program notes.
Besides, the work they do goes a great way into helping those who are facing difficulty or are incapable of carrying out the tasks on their own. But, like every new change, this project took some getting used to for Hitzler as well as the students. Hitzler added: "The students aren’t typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated. What they really like is helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person. We get to give back to the community, but the kids feel a sense of accomplishment, too."
Basically, under the PE program, students are given a chance to expend their credits during the last few weeks of class. Some of the activities include raking leaves, chopping firewood, weeding the garden, and mowing the lawn. Although the Alternative Learning Center's PE program has come to an end, it is expected to come back next year. In another chat with PEOPLE, Hitzler explained that there's one more important aspect to the program which turns students into lifelong contributors as they return to volunteer for those in need. "I’ve had students that graduated that have come back to help. There’s something about helping people that really need it," Hitzler said. "It’s been amazing, the attention this has gotten. I think it’s because it’s such a simple idea."