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Training center to open at Dodge Middle School

Dodge Middle School's second floor will be transformed this September into a new school and community fitness center for students and community members who seek better health and wellness via a good cardio workout paired with weight training.

Chris Bussmann, principal at Dodge Middle School in Farmington, shared what he said was the best news in his 15-year tenure with the district at the Monday, May 8, board work session.

Chris Bussmann "After a few hundred hours of grant writing, revisions and conversations," Bussmann said the school was awarded a $107,222 family foundation grant to redesign the school's second floor area above the school's lockers.

The 10,000-square-foot space has been used for wrestling with a caged area around a weight area. This space will become a new student, district and community cardio and weight training fitness center.

This Dodge second floor fitness area supports the ever evolving district strategic plan and this initiative supports personalized wellness for students and the community.

Bussmann shared a presentation alongside fellow teaching colleagues Chad Olson and Beau Price. Project contributor and educator Connie Berg was unable to be present at the board work session, but Bussmann praised her contributions.

The project was conceptualized five years ago as the district continued to launch its strategic plan to engage students at school and the community of Farmington.

Teacher Chad Olson served on a district planning committee five years ago in 2012. The group set forth a plan and discussion about how to better use students' time in school and better utilize the school building space with a redesign.

"We looked at how we could change what we do," Olson said.

The first year, students in middle school took part in a gym curriculum with a flipped classroom model where students watched sports educational videos via Schoology on their personal iPads before gym class.

Educator Berg collaborated with her husband Jason Berg, principal at Farmington High and former basketball coach. The worked to design a fitness regime that outlined curriculum for students where they could engage in beginning, intermediate and advanced basketball skills of dribbling and shooting tailored to fit students' skill levels.

"The kids were excited when they knew it was tailored to them," Olson said.

By the second year, the school added volleyball, pickleball and badminton. Middle school students could again focus on improving skills alongside friends who could all worked at their own pace in a personalized learning format. Afterwards, students took part in discussion and shared feedback about methods that worked well for them and what did not, Olson said.

Another piece of the program was to develop a school summer strength training program where students trained on weight equipment at Farmington High. In the past, incoming ninth graders were welcome to enter the strength training program, but this served as an effort to move back the fitness program into middle school. Students could enroll in the summer strength training program at Farmington High.

"We had over half of the eighth grade class register for the strength training class last year and then this year we have four sections," Olson said, adding how there are about 119 students enrolled. "Our kids love it and they can use their voice for choice," he added.

Fitness program

Besides engaging Dodge Middle School students, students from Boeckman Middle School and Gateway Academy have enrolled in the summer fitness program at the high school.

"I can say in my three years, the numbers have absolutely doubled," Bussmann said, adding how more than 350 students in grades eighth through high school are enrolled and taking part in the fitness program.

"The students know the lifts and are confident and it is individualized for them so they know the sets, and reps and have the ability," Bussmann said.

"It is an opportunity to personalize it for them and it starts every day at the middle school program, and we can see how it translates into the high school program and the numbers we are seeing at the high school are just through the roof," Bussmann said.

This cardio and strength training area will be created within the school building confines and will be offered to each student.

"We are going to make this a community space as I put in up on Twitter a few weeks ago and it received 6,000 impressions, and now people are private messaging me to see how they can take advantage of it," said Bussmann.

Grateful for the private family foundation grant, Bussmann said this educational initiative fulfills the grant's intended mission.

This fitness space will become a cardio center with weight training to teach students and the community proper techniques to seek better health and wellness.

"This is going to be heavily integrated and used by 400 students who take P.E. every day," Bussmann said.

Strong partnerships

The Dodge Middle School fitness center holds a potential for the district to build strong partnerships and relationships, according to Bussmann.

Farmington School Board member Julie Singewald thanked Bussmann and the teaching team who worked on the project and were awarded the large foundation grant.

Singewald said this fitness center will become an opportunity for students to experience a better transition from middle to high school, and will offer students a way to become better prepared for high school gym classes, sports, along with seeking greater fitness levels.

Farmington School Board Chair Jake Cordes echoed his gratitude to the Dodge Middle School administrative and teaching team.

Plans will be underway for the new cardio and strength training center to be ready for a ribbon cutting ceremony in September.

"There is so much more we haven't even dreamt of yet, and we are excited to get this project underway and we are really excited this is going to become a community asset," Bussmann said.