Marietta’s Ewing School gets kids into shape with yoga

Photo by Kate York Ewing School students and staff dance along to a video using the new screen and projector at the school.

MARIETTA — A group of students gather in the Ewing School gym, a video projected on a large screen starts to play and the smiles start.

So does the movement, with arms waving, heads bobbing and legs kicking.

“A lot of people boo-hoo technology for keeping kids glued to the TV but this is opening up a whole world of dance, rhythm and activity,” said Carol Greening, program nurse and co-chair of the health and wellness committee for the Washington County Board of Developmental Disabilities.

Dancing in the gym, along with stretching and using rhythm balls, has been part of the routine for the Ewing students and staff in the last three weeks after the school acquired a $2,500 grant from the Marietta Community Foundation. The money was partially spent on a roll-down screen for the gym, a projector and a sound system.

It’s a first for the site, which unlike most area schools, doesn’t have smartboards for classroom use.

“We wanted to get the kids moving,” said Greening. “We don’t have a gym teacher but we can do this. The kids respond to it so well.”

The staff mostly uses free online content from YouTube or GoNoodle to lead the Ewing students in dance routines and stretching to a story, with movements set to movies like “Frozen” and “Harry Potter.”

“The kids love it,” said student aide Alexa Fouss. “They used to be able to just ride bikes but this really gets them moving and jumping around a lot more and it lets them all come together. They’re not just riding bikes by themselves.”

Ten-year-old Tristen Cooper has not only learned lots of new moves but has lost four pounds from the activities in school and out. He’s been asking for the videos at home and uses an iPad to keep active with them there as well.

His favorite movie to stretch to?

“‘Star Wars!,'” he said.

The animation of the videos, as well as the use of the technology, helps to engage students who have challenges with that, said Greening.

“I know we wouldn’t get the same response if we just had a person standing up there,” she said. “A lot of children with autism can’t engage but they do engage more with this type of activity, versus something like trying to play basketball.”

Greening said she expects to see long-term benefits to the activities, too.

“I’m really excited to see how their balance improves and things like hand-eye coordination,” she said.

The employees of Ewing School are also reaping the benefits of the new equipment. Each Tuesday and Thursday they meet for yoga in the gym from 7:45 to 8:15 a.m. All county employees have also been invited to take part in the free yoga sessions and public participation is encouraged as space allows.

Classroom aide Brittany Saunders said the pre-work yoga has made her a convert already.

“I always thought yoga was kind of lame but I’m pleasantly surprised with how much I like it,” she said. “I feel relaxed when I’m done and ready to start the day.”

Wellness initiatives at the school also include weekly healthy cooking classes taught by an AmeriCorps volunteer and planting a garden outside in the spring.