Physical Activity Spotlight: Teachers Motivate Students With Hustle Up Hamilton

February 15, 2013

A fun way to move

At HSC, we're always looking for new ideas to make fitness a fun part of the school day and an integral component of the school community. Here, we learn how Hamilton Elementary School transformed its entire school building into a fun fitness challenge, setting a great example for students in the process. 

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At Hamilton Elementary School in Chicago, faculty members on the school’s wellness team, including preschool teacher Nichole Moos, physical education teacher Steve Skweres and 1st grade teacher Liz Busch, launched an activity to motivate their colleagues to get fit and have fun.

It all began with a brainstorm. When the team was throwing around ideas, Skweres suggested doing Hustle Up the Hancock, an annual charity race where participants climb the stairs of the iconic John Hancock Building. This proved a little too ambitious, so the team decided to scale it down and create a similar event in their three-floor school building — and Hustle Up Hamilton was born.

Staff members start at the first floor, walk or run up two flights of stairs to get to the gym, walk or run through the gym and then come back down the stairs. This counts as one circuit, and the goal of the event is to see how many circuits you can complete in a half-hour time limit. Moos even made a playlist for the event with all the staff’s favorite high-energy songs, on which they were delighted to include Principal James Gray's choice, ‘90s hit “Pump Up the Jam” by Technotronic.

The planners agreed that the day was a success. Staff members at all levels of fitness participated, from those who were running marathons to those who found a challenge in climbing stairs. Some chose to walk and others ran the whole time, and everyone had the opportunity to get active and set some goals. They said everyone was surprised by how many laps they could do. Skweres says goal-setting was a key element to the exercise, and even if staff members could only complete one circuit, that was okay.

“The purpose isn’t so that everyone gets really skinny,” Moos added. “Fitness looks different for every single person, and we were asking people to set goals and try to stick with them.”

All three staff members emphasized the importance of the students seeing the teachers promoting fitness and setting a positive example.

“My kids were actually here on Friday when we did it,” Busch says. “The kids come on professional development days and they got to watch us run the first half of it. They were giving us high-fives and when I got to the classroom, they asked if I won the race, and I said, ‘We weren’t winning, we were doing it together.’ It’s good for us to be models for our students.”

This is the first year Hamilton Elementary has had a wellness team, and they’ve already put together some fantastic initiatives in addition to Hustle Up Hamilton. There’s the ongoing, all-levels staff yoga class led by a yoga instructor parent, an upcoming professional development day where Purple Asparagus will lead a healthy cooking demonstration for staff and mental health-promoting activities including “warm fuzzies,” where teachers give compliments and do random acts of kindness for one another. Ideas in the works include a basketball tournament to raise money for wellness programming and a professional development session on reading labels. Hamilton also plans to work towards the highest levels of success in meeting the HealthierUS Schools Challenge.

The team is looking to hold Hustle Up Hamilton again at the end of the school year to see how much the runners have improved, and anticipate many more great opportunities for fitness and fun. “We were professional athletes that day,” Moos jokes.

Thanks to Hamilton Elementary for sharing their story with us! Tell us: Could you replicate this great idea at your school?