On the brink of replacing fitness equipment at Glenbrook South, a question emerged: “How might we build an inclusive space for all students that encourages new levels of life-ready fitness?”
The model, when the equipment was installed in 2008, was one of time divided between weight training and cardio equipment. Physical Education (P.E.) students were spending their time mirroring what was happening in health and fitness clubs across the country: combining half of their time on ellipticals, bikes, and treadmills and the other half with weights and machines. GBS had a fitness center model to match and student athletes had access to the same equipment, as entire teams rotated through the facilities, just as up to 120 P.E. students did during a class block.
Then the light bulb went off. The massive, high-end gyms we see throughout our communities were largely built for individuals pursuing their fitness goals, as opposed to teachers and coaches who were teaching fitness to large groups of students and athletes. What’s more, the facilities were limiting teaching and learning experiences, instead of elevating them.
In a bold move, P.E. staff at GBS, under the leadership of Instructional Supervisor Mr. Steve Stanicek, and the support of Director of Instructional Innovation Mr. Ryan Bretag, set out to redefine the philosophy of their fitness center, and more importantly, their curriculum.
During the 2018-19 school year, P.E. teachers, students, administrators and coaches went through a process to identify where they wanted to take student fitness next. They visited facilities, immersed themselves in creative ideation sessions, and researched emerging trends in fitness and wellness industries. Ultimately, the department decided to shift to a functional fitness model.
“A move to a functional fitness model supports our district’s focus on student health and wellness,” said Bretag. “From picking up groceries, to enjoying outdoor activities, to playing sports, functional fitness is the way we live and it is living well.”
The facility redesign included the installation of an expansive open-turf area, two large rigs, barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls, rowers, ski ergs and bike ergs.
“Regardless of age or gender, this space inspires community by creating a more inclusive atmosphere and by providing access to functional fitness experiences designed to motivate and improve each student’s fitness regardless of level,” said Bretag.
With new equipment and redesigned space, the P.E. department set out to deepen their knowledge and expertise in functional fitness. Enter CrossFit, the most well-known name in the industry, who partnered with GBS to present a full, two-day CrossFit Level 1 Certificate Course to 23 teachers and two administrators this winter.
In addition, the school recently became an official non-profit CrossFit affiliate, operating under the name CrossFit GBS.
“The CrossFit methodology is a great fit for what we are trying to accomplish here at GBS,” said Stanicek. “We want to teach students how to move better, for now and for life, and constantly varied movements at high intensity will help to get them there.”
This January, at the start of the second semester, every single student enrolled in a P.E. class began to experience the new fitness philosophy taking hold at GBS.