These moms are conquering a huge obstacle: helping kids see that exercise is fun.

When the moms at Roosevelt K-8 School got together to start a fitness program for their kids, one mom was not feeling enthusiastic.

“When I was in school it was, ‘How many pullups can you do?’” Jesse Farren-James says. “Well, I could do zero, and it was horrible.”

Having struggled with her weight on and off throughout life, Farren-James felt like the last person who should be helping lead an exercise program.


But one problem at her sons' school left her feeling like she had no choice but to do something.

Farren-James and her family dog, Arrow. All photos via Jesse Farren-James, used with permission.

“Our school doesn’t offer gym until fifth grade,” she says. “So there are some kids who can’t do any sports and really get virtually no physical activity.”

With school days getting longer and daylight getting shorter, Farren-James’ two sons, Patrick and Sean, were getting fewer and fewer opportunities to get active outside of school.

Other kids, whose families had fewer resources, were treading dangerously close to being totally sedentary.

Jesse with husband Kevin and sons, Sean and Patrick.

Despite her hesitation, Farren-James agreed to come on as a parent volunteer when the rest of the moms decided to launch BOKS at the school.

To Farren-James’ relief, BOKS was not the kind of fitness program that she remembered from her own school days.

The program, which stands for Building Our Kids’ Success, is a 45-minute before-school fitness routine.

It follows a robust, evidence-based and scaleable curriculum established by the BOKS organization that consists of some free play, a warmup, a running-related activity, a “skill of the week” (like pushups or situps), a fun end-of-class game, and a cool-down that includes some discussion about nutrition.

And, as Farren-James soon found out, the program places a much higher value on simply getting active and having fun than it does on counting jumping jacks or perfecting a child’s pushup.

“This is not competition. It’s doing our personal best, learning new skills, trying our hardest,” she says. “It’s working on the holistic aspect of bettering ourselves.”

Plus, the kids are having fun.

The impact the program has had on the kids is astounding says Farren-James.

When it comes to the kids, the program encourages more focus on fun and activity than on measuring repetitions or speed. But since the school's program is sponsored, trainers do take metrics, and participants' overall fitness levels have improved markedly.

"From the beginning to the end, the difference is huge," Farren-James says. "The data shows it: Kids get faster. Kids get stronger. Kids have more endurance."

Teachers, too, have noticed a huge improvement in another area: the students' behavior and focus on days they come from BOKS.

“The kids come into class and they’re just chill," Farren-James says. "They’re in a different space. They’ve gotten their energy out.”

But most importantly, at least to Farren-James, is the life skills that kids learn through participating in BOKS.

The kids become more physically fit, but parents and teachers also see huge improvements in their social skills after some time at BOKS.

"It's incredible — it's a morning class three times a week that gives you almost every skill that you would need in life," says Farren-James. "Work together. Be active. Treat each other with respect."

The kids get to practice leading, following, sharing, and challenging themselves in more ways than just the physical.

In the end, kids walk away from BOKS healthier — in body and in spirit.

Unlike a sports team or a graded gym class, BOKS doesn't assign any particular merit to being able to run faster or play harder. It's all about establishing a healthy relationship with your body — no matter what state that body is in.

Photo via BOKS.

What the kids learn about exercise is something that Farren-James learned through BOKS too.

"It doesn’t have to be tedious and miserable and embarrassing and uncomfortable," she says. "It can just be fun."

Family
True
BOKS


Climate change is happening because the earth is warming at an accelerated rate, a significant portion of that acceleration is due to human activity, and not taking measures to mitigate it will have disastrous consequences for life as we know it.

In other words: Earth is heating up, it's kinda our fault, and if we don't fix it, we're screwed.

This is the consensus of the vast majority of the world's scientists who study such things for a living. Case closed. End of story.

How do we know this to be true? Because pretty much every reputable scientific organization on the planet has examined and endorsed these conclusions. Thousands of climate studies have been done, and multiple peer-reviewed studies have been done on those studies, showing that somewhere between 84 and 97 percent of active climate science experts support these conclusions. In fact, the majority of those studies put the consensus well above 90%.

Keep Reading Show less
Nature

As a child, Dr. Sangeeta Bhatia's parents didn't ask her what she wanted to be when she grew up. Instead, her father would ask, "Are you going to be a doctor? Are you going to be an engineer? Or are you going to be an entrepreneur?"

Little did he know that she would successfully become all three: an award-winning biomedical and mechanical engineer who performs cutting-edge medical research and has started multiple companies.

Bhatia holds an M.D. from Harvard University, an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, and a PhD in biomedical engineering from MIT. Bhatia, a Wilson professor of engineering at MIT, is currently serving as director of the Marble Center for Cancer Nanomedicine, where she's working on nanotechnology targeting enzymes in cancer cells. This would allow cancer screenings to be done with a simple urine test.

Bhatia owes much of her impressive career to her family. Her parents were refugees who met in graduate school in India; in fact, she says her mom was the first woman to earn an MBA in the country. The couple immigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, started a family, and worked hard to give their two daughters the best opportunities.

"They made enormous sacrifices to pick a town with great public schools and really push us to excel the whole way," Bhatia says. "They really believed in us, but they expected excellence. The story I like to tell about my dad is like, if you brought home a 96 on a math test, the response would be, 'What'd you get wrong?'"

Keep Reading Show less
Packard Foundation
True

I live in a family with various food intolerances. Thankfully, none of them are super serious, but we are familiar with the challenges of finding alternatives to certain foods, constantly checking labels, and asking restaurants about their ingredients.

In our family, if someone accidentally eats something they shouldn't, it's mainly a bit of inconvenient discomfort. For those with truly life-threatening food allergies, the stakes are much higher.

I can't imagine the ongoing stress of deadly allergy, especially for parents trying to keep their little ones safe.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Amy Johnson

The first day of school can be both exciting and scary at the same time — especially if it's your first day ever, as was the case for a nervous four-year-old in Wisconsin. But with a little help from a kind bus driver, he was able to get over his fear.

Axel was "super excited" waiting for the bus in Augusta with his mom, Amy Johnson, until it came time to actually get on.

"He was all smiles when he saw me around the corner and I started to slow down and that's when you could see his face start to change," his bus driver, Isabel "Izzy" Lane, told WEAU.

The scared boy wouldn't get on the bus without help from his mom, so she picked him up and carried him aboard, trying to give him a pep talk.

"He started to cling to me and I told him, 'Buddy, you got this and will have so much fun!'" Johnson told Fox 7.

Keep Reading Show less
Most Shared