McKinley School Students Are All ACES for International Exercise Initiative

May 10, 2017
Photo by: David Biggy

Still recovering from bronchitis, the last thing McKinley Avenue School Principal Marge Hoffman needed was to be called up to the front of a huge class to help lead a dance party alongside many of the school’s teachers. But given the good sport she is, Hoffman slowly made her way to the stage area of the gymnasium, amid the roars of “Hoffman! Hoffman! Hoffman!”

“She does it every year, but I forgot that Sue Malmstrom would call me up there,” Hoffman said of the physical education teacher who led the nearly 600 McKinley students through Project All Children Exercise Simultaneously (ACES) on May 3. “It’s part of the fun of the event. Unfortunately, I’m a principal who doesn’t have the best rhythm.”

Started in 1989, Project ACES is an international initiative started by Montville physical education teacher Len Saunders during which millions of children from more than 50 countries take part in some form of an exercise session at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of May to promote fitness and unity.

“I’ve been doing this with our students for at least 15 years,” said Malmstrom, who along with physical education teacher Jacqueline Kennelly used several musical numbers to get the students moving and their cardiovascular systems churning. “We had to stop for a time because statewide testing was going on the same week, but this year we were able to participate. It’s also national Physical Education and Sports Month, so it all works well together to promote fitness to the kids.”

Malmstrom and Kennelly got the students warmed up with a couple of “easy” dance routines, then increased the length of time and difficulty as the exercise session went on. Between routines, Malmstrom and Kennelly discussed the importance of exercise and nutrition. After some 45 minutes, about 15 teachers and Hoffman led a wild dance-off, complete with the “Hokey Pokey,” the Chicken Dance song, the Isley Brothers’ original song “Shout!” and, yes, they even got “Footloose.”

By the time it was all over, Malmstrom and Kennelly certainly were sweaty – not sure about too many of the kids, though.

“The good part about this is that everybody can do it,” Kennelly said. “We try to have a family vibe to it, to encourage as many of the students and teachers to get involved. It’s a fun time for everybody, and it definitely gets a little warm in here.”

Hoffman said McKinley’s dynamic duo do a great job in making sure their students are active and understand the importance of physical fitness and eating right.

“Sue and Jacqueline are excellent at showing the students the benefits of exercise and healthy eating,” she said. “And for this event, they know that music naturally gets us moving, and they use it to make the point that exercise can and should be fun.”

— David Biggy

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