School Program Lets Students Earn P.E. Credits By Helping People With Yard Work

Many children hate gym class, so this school provided them with an alternative. In Iowa, students are earning Physical Education credit by assisting others with yard maintenance. Students can get some exercise while helping the elderly and crippled with their gardens and even chicken coops. This approach was proposed by Tim Hitzler, a social studies instructor at the Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque. The students agreed to work for the final two weeks of the school year.

For their physical education, students assist people with yard work.

According to Mike Cyze, a spokesperson for the Dubuque Community School District, the students had many options for earning their PE credits. Other students chose to clean up a river barge and golf courses while Hitzler oversaw the yard work.

He began the program in 2015, and students have spent the last two weeks of the semester working outside for two hours each day.

“The students, including myself, come out to assist them. It depends on what they need, whether it’s raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, or cleaning gutters,” Hitzler said. “At first, the students aren’t overly enthusiastic, but as they get involved and begin doing yard labor, they become more driven. They enjoy giving back to others and meeting new people.”

In 2019, 29 students from the Alternative Learning Center enrolled in the program, with 12 of them opting to assist people with yard labor. The pupils not only assisted others and received some exercise, but they also became a part of a community. Many of their coworkers invited them to dinner parties and cookouts. Some of the children who took part in the project wanted to keep working in the yard throughout the summer.

“I’ve had students come back to help after they graduated,” Hitzler said. “There’s something satisfying about assisting those who are truly in need.”

“Such a Simple Concept”

The Alternative Learning Center is for kids who are on the verge of dropping out of high school.

“Alternative education in Iowa is a mindset, not a technique or a program. According to the Iowa Department of Education’s website, “it is predicated on the notion that there are numerous ways to get educated, as well as many sorts of environments and structures within which this may occur.”

For the episode, Hitzler utilizes his own pickup truck, as well as some of his own yard tools. He was surprised by how many people responded to this simple and nice PE option once his suggestion gained media notice.

In 2019, he commented, “The attention this has generated has been tremendous.” “I believe it is due to the fact that it is such a basic concept.”

Yard Work’s Health Advantages

Aside from assisting others, yard labor has its own set of advantages for young students.

Vitamin D is one of these benefits. Working in the sun for 30 minutes can provide anywhere from 8,000 to 50,000 international units (IU) of vitamin D (depending on how much skin is exposed and one’s complexion, of course). One of vitamin D’s many advantages is that it helps to build one’s bones and immune system.

Gardening is also an activity, which means it can help you maintain a healthy weight, sleep better, and gain strength. Then there are the psychological advantages. Yard work can boost a person’s happiness and self-esteem while also reducing anxiety and depression symptoms.

Gardening, not surprisingly, can build community and connection, particularly in shared places. Or, in this example, it strengthens bonds between kids and those they are assisting with yard maintenance. These kind of relationships have the potential to enhance one’s sense of well-being.

During this pandemic, sunshine and exercise is more difficult to come by. However, anyone could reap the benefits of gardening while maintaining social distance. Even if you don’t have a yard, you could also grow plants and food in pots on porches or balconies.


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