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School's fitness program at top of its game

February 20, 1997

By KERRY LYNN FRALEY

Staff Writer

As kindergarten students in an Eastern Elementary School physical education class watched Thursday afternoon, teacher Darrell Eichelberger demonstrated the shimmying action required to keep a Hula-Hoop spinning.

After letting the youngsters try it for themselves, Eichelberger had the students drop their hoops to the ground and practice walking and skipping around them.

The activities might seen simple enough, but they help improve students' motor skills, physical fitness, ability to follow directions and self-esteem, he said.

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Basic physical education at the kindergarten level is an important part of the progressive six-year program Eichelberger has developed at the school over the past 18 months.

This week, Eichelberger learned that his program earned Eastern Elementary a "demonstration school" status from the Maryland State Department of Education and the Maryland Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.

The school is one of only three schools in the state to survive the rigorous review process and receive the two-year designation, which endorses its program as a model for other schools, school administrators and college physical education departments, Eichelberger said.

The honor isn't new to Eichelberger, 40, whose programs previously had earned the status for Cascade and Fountaindale elementary schools.

Schools have to actively seek the designation through an involved application process, which culminates in a day-long school visit, he said.

Moving to a new school, Eichelberger said he has found it a challenge to develop a program that would earn the distinction.

But even the best of programs won't work without the strong support of other teachers, administrators, parents and students, he said.

"I'm really excited for the people here to get the recognition that good things are happening here," Eichelberger said.

He said he's enjoyed exchanging ideas and experiences with educators who have come to check out his programs.

Student teacher Scott Myers said he's been inspired by Eichelberger's high energy, creativity and ability to teach students self-discipline.

Students say they enjoy Eichelberger's approach to physical education and the variety of things they get to do in class.

Fifth-grader Louis Mills said he thinks Eichelberger's class is "cool" and "awesome."

"He teaches us a lot of stuff," said Mills, 11, who said he likes the soccer unit best so far.

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