How does that saying go – the family who hikes 50 miles in Yellowstone together champions PE together? Ok, so that might not be a real adage, but it’s reality for Grace Federico, a mom of two from Pueblo, Colorado, and her family.
Grace’s love of being active was passed down from her own father, and it’s something that she and her husband have, in turn, passed on to their own kids, a 17-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. Grace looks back fondly at her own PE, which she considers the highlight of her school experience. “I always enjoyed it, especially due to the variety of activities. You get to learn a little bit of everything and always try something new.” Having PE every day and doing a lot of outdoor activities were elements of Grace’s childhood PE that she wishes schools were doing now. Not only does Grace feel PE should be longer (45 minutes to an hour) and more days per week, she feels that experiencing the outdoors through hikes or field trips would instill in young children a love for outdoor activity as opposed to being on screens and tablets.
Grace’s children feel the same way—even when the Colorado weather is very cold, her daughter Nathalia still goes outside to run around or ride her bike. They often gather up their cousins and go to local parks to exercise and be active together as a family. But it’s not all fun and games (and hikes). When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Grace says they had to prioritize PE and physical activity to improve their well-being. “Being stuck at home for weeks at a time took a toll on all of us emotionally. It affected us a lot. At first, the unknown had us so nervous about how to stay safe. But over time, as we learned more and then reintroduced physical activity, it began to improve our mental health.”
She also notes that PE class, which they’ve been doing virtually and supplementing at home with online exercise video channels for the days in between, gets her kids more energized, focused, and “hyped” for school. “They seem to be happier. Their attitude is totally refreshed.” Grace stresses that she believes her kids respond so well to PE and physical activity because she and her husband are invested in it and that parents should make movement a priority at home to ensure their kids understand the importance.
But Grace recognizes that not everyone has the same opportunities. “I would really love for my daughter’s friends to experience some of the things my kids do, like the hiking, but many of their families can’t. I am fortunate to be able to provide that for my kids.” Underscoring the need for school physical activity and physical education as a way to make sure all kids have access to movement, Grace thinks that her school would listen to her and other parents if they speak up. “In our school, they have frequent meetings with parents to see if there’s anything they could improve. I think they would take into consideration what we suggest. Since we’re talking about PE…next time we talk to the school I feel like I should bring that up!”
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