By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
When fifth-grade teacher Cathleen Dell flips the switch on a stereo rolled out onto the basketball court at Pershing Park Elementary School, her students know it's Body Charge time.
Though it's 7:30 in the morning and some kids are still wiping the sleep out of their eyes, Dell has learned what it takes to get the school's fourth- and fifth-graders charged up for the rest of the day.
All it takes is the "Cha-Cha Slide" and the demonstration of a few simple, repetitive movements and, suddenly, exercise has become fun, Dell said.
"The kids love to dance,' but I don't call it dancing, I call it aerobics," she said.
Dell started leading Body Charge for the older elementary students when the school's physical education teacher requested that teachers start having at least 10 minutes of exercise during class time. But Dell didn't know when she could carve out that much time from other studies.
When she was assigned morning duty, which lasts from 7:30 to 7:55 a.m. each school day, it hit her: when children were being dropped off by their parents, there was nothing for them to do before school started.
"That's 25 minutes of kids just sitting here and being bored," she said.
So Body Charge was instituted, and its ranks have swollen to include almost all fourth- and fifth-graders at Pershing Park Elementary School.
"We only had a handful of kids, but it was kind of contagious. Once some of the cool' kids started doing it, everyone was doing it," Dell said.
Fifth-grader Tony Barnes joined in the fun activity the first day, and can't stand it when Body Charge gets canceled because of rain.
"I think it's cool. When you come to school, the teachers look at you to see if you are tired, and this wakes us up."
He, along with fourth-graders Lynzi Funk and Adrian Cattouge, all agreed the "Cha Cha Slide," an updated version of the "Electric Slide," is their favorite song to exercise to during Body Charge.
While all three used words such as "good," "cool" and "fun" to describe this activity, they also threw in words such as "healthy" and "exercise." Dell said she tries to make the children aware of the benefits exercise has for them.
"I tell them get your blood moving,' and take your heart rate.' The kids feel the difference," she said.
Principal Van Riper said this 25-minute exercise session has made a noticeable impact on her students, adding, "it gets their brains activated."
She said Body Charge is something only fourth- and fifth-graders do because it makes it more special to those students and gives younger students something to look forward to when they get to those grades.
"Not only have the kiddos enjoyed it, but (Dell) has enjoyed it," Van Riper said.
Even though the exercise has her out of breath at the end of 25 minutes, Dell said it has been doing her a world of good.
"Maybe you should come back at the end of the school year and see if I've lost any weight," she jokingly told a Killeen Daily Herald reporter.
Contact Hillary Meeks at firstname.lastname@example.org