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Florida fights childhood obesity with new gym rule

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"The teachers rose to the challenge, and the kids love what they're doing," Mr. Dawes says. "I walk around the school, and I'll hear a lot of noise and music from somewhere, and wonder, 'what was that?' And there will be a class full of kids jumping up and down with big smiles on their faces."

Forest Hills, which is part of the Broward County Schools District, came up with some of the most creative responses to the new requirement, according to Elly Zanin, curriculum specialist in physical education for the district.

One of Forest Hills' first steps was finding space in the timetable. Each class now uses daily recess for formal PE, whether that is yoga, pilates, or routines like "Chicken Fat," which fifth-grade teacher Patricia Purvin prepared for her class.

Videos entitled "Forest Hills Fever" are also shown daily. The 30-minute programs are professionally produced outside the school and feature a variety of activities, of which the children say they prefer mock martial-art routines.

And parts of the Forest Hills schoolyard have been transformed from general playground to "designated outdoor fitness areas" for activities under the guidance of PE teacher Joseph Alfonso, who sees each class at least once a week. In better weather, this is where Mrs. Purvin's class would usually be flapping to the chicken dance or performing another favorite, the "Cha Cha Slide."

The Broward school district has "one of the shortest school days, and of course it's a challenge to fit it in alongside the academic demands," Ms. Zanin says. "That's why the schools have had to be creative."

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