New P.E. program just what the doctor ordered

Students are now mixing their reading and writing with pushups and jumping jacks.

Varnett has instituted a physical education program to help kids stay fit and healthy. It’s designed to complement the already existing fresh fruit and vegetable program as part of a national effort to promote good health and combat obesity.

“I wholeheartedly embrace the adage “a healthy mind in a healthy body,’” said Joseph Seahorn, Varnett’s new P.E. coordinator. “Physical education is an essential part of our mission to educate the whole person.”

Mr. Seahorn is one of four people who teach P.E. at Varnett. He is joined by Mr. Walter Kendrick at Southwest while Mr. Jonathan Rivera-Campudoni works at the East Campus and Mr. Ernest Estes at Northeast. Mr. Seahorn conducts classes from 8 a.m to 3 p.m., with lunch in between. His overall workload calls for classes two days a week for 45 minutes per grade level. Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd graders, for example, have their classes on Mondays and Wednesdays.

P.E. not a frill
While he teaches calisthenics, Mr. Seahorn’s main objective is to make sure the students are doing their exercises correctly. “Just as in teaching any subject or skill, there is a correct and incorrect way of doing things,” Mr. Seahorn said. “I explain the importance of stretching for flexibility and injury prevention. We also add the most important element: incorporating fun into each class. That’s very important, especially with children this age.”

Mr. Seahorn came to Varnett with more than 20 years of teaching and coaching experience in basketball, volleyball, track and tennis. He has planned daily practices with the primary focus on fundamental skills and has organized and coordinated public/private school basketball tournaments to recruit student athletes entering high school. Mr. Seahorn earned his bachelor’s degree in education from National University in San Diego, Calif., and graduated Cumme Laude.

"Human expression"
Experts say physical education is crucial among students not only because it helps them stay healthy, but studies show that it can also enhance important skills like concentration and problem solving, which can improve their academic performance. It also builds self esteem and develops cooperation, teamwork and skills in sportsmanship.
“Physical education goes hand-in-hand with our fresh fruit and vegetable program to ensure that our students are healthy and ready to learn,” said Dr. M. Annette Cluff, the district’s superintendent.

Mr. Seahorn, who also teaches health classes, said his biggest challenge is for schools to treat P.E like any other academic program. “Sometimes administrations use P.E. as a break time for other teachers,” he said.

The true task of promoting children's health lies in the home, he said. However, if the home is not teaching it, "what better place to learn than at school. I would like to see the strong emphasis in keeping physical education and all art forms of human expression in all levels of school."

Born in Houston, Mr. Seahorn has three children, Christal, Jennifer and Joseph. His hobbies include music, going to the theatre, mentoring children and being a sports enthusiast.


A pushup primarily targets the upper body region (chest, arms and shoulders). It's more of an anaerobic exercise performed in a prone position by raising and lowering the body using the arms. However, contracting the core (stomach area) helps support the straight back needed to do the exercise correctly.

Jumping jacks are of an aerobic exercise. It's a physical jumping exercise performed by jumping to a position with the legs spread open and hands touching overhead simultaneously and then returning to a position with the feet together and the arms at the sides. "I describe it to young kids as doing the latter A, then letter I while jumping," Mr. Seahorn said.

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