Students at the Alternative Learning Center (ALC) in Dubuque, Iowa, can now receive physical education credit when they help senior citizens or people with disabilities with their landscaping needs. But those receiving help with their landscaping aren’t the only ones who benefit.
The school itself provides an alternative setting for junior and senior high school students who have struggled to succeed at more traditional schools.
These students have been identified as in danger of dropping out of school entirely. At ALC, they can focus on project-based and independent learning opportunities designed to get them back on the path toward graduation.
The landscaping program, in particular, has proven beneficial both for the students and the community. It has helped in building relationships, too, resulting in social invitations to the students from those they are working for. The kids do whatever homeowners need for about two hours a day during the last few school weeks, including raking, pulling weeds, cleaning gutters, cutting bamboo — even tending to chicken coops.
Tim Hitzler, a teacher at the school, told local news station KWWL that giving the students this option during the last two weeks of classes is a great opportunity for them to give back while getting a workout at the same time.
Typical yardwork activities — such as mowing the lawn, trimming the hedges, raking leaves, chopping firewood and weeding the garden — can all offer a significant calorie burn as well as provide the benefits of your average cardio or strength-building workout.
Men’s Journal reports that for a 150 lb. male, moving the lawn can offer a 408 calorie loss per hour. One hour of hedge trimming burns about 238 calories. Raking the leaves for an hour will burn 292 calories, and wedding the garden burns 160 calories in just 30 minutes. These activities also work out your shoulders, back, and core. Not to mention, there’s the satisfaction of a job well done!
Just remember, if you decide to go this route and build a workout routine around your yardwork activities, to use sunblock liberally and hydrate well. You’re likely to build up a sweat doing this, especially if it’s warm outside, so be careful! Change your stance regularly, gradually increase your intensity, focus on your legs and core muscles, and don’t forget to stretch! Bend at the waist in a lunge rather than sit hunched over.
Students can also choose from a number of other activities in order to fulfill their P.E. requirement, such as cleaning up golf courses or a river barge. However, about 29 teens signed up for the service program altogether, with about 12 of those wanting to do yard work specifically. Hitzler believes that the act of helping others is what makes the program so impactful and compelling.
“The students aren’t typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated,” said Hitzler. “What they really like is … helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person.”
The program has proven so popular with the students that some of them choose to continue volunteering over the summer.
“I’ve had students that graduated that have come back to help,” Hitzler told People. “There’s something about helping people that really need it.”
What a great idea! What do you think of this program? We certainly would have preferred this to some of the more aggressive contact sports!