Students at Fairless Elementary School are skating their way to a healthy life.

As Black Eyed Peas' "I Gotta Feeling" blared in the background, a group of fifth-graders at Fairless Elementary School strapped on a pair of roller skates and fastened their helmets.

For five weeks, the fourth- and fifth-grade students will learn the basics of roller skating during their once a week, 50-minute physical education class.

So far, the students have learned to stand on skates, to go forward and backward and cornering. They also have played games including limbo, four corners and relay races.

Physical education teacher Dave Quinn said the students are excited to skate.

"They love it," he added.

Quinn said he wasn't very good when he first started skating, but now he effortlessly glides along the gym floor, stopping to guide students or lend a hand.

While trying to meet standards set by the state Department of Education, Quinn tries to introduce his students to activities they might not never get a chance to try, such as skating, lacrosse, gymnastics and handball.

"When we started, only about half of them had ever had skates on before," he said.

PTO help

The skates and helmets are provided by SkateTime, an Ilinois-based company that has been involved in physical education of students since 1985, Quinn said.

He first encountered the program while student teaching at Field.

To bring the program to Fairless students, it would cost $7 per student, he said.

The Fairless Elementary PTO, Quinn said, had a fundraiser to generate enough money to pay $5 for each student. Students kicked in the remaining $2.

Quinn said the PTO picked up the cost for any student who was unable to pay the $2. Some parents even donated more than their $2 share to help other students.

Making lifetime movers

In 2010, SB 210 — Healthy Choices for Healthy Children Act — was signed into law. The law contains provisions to combat childhood obesity by increasing students' physical activity and ensuring healthy meals and beverages at school.

The state Department of Education developed six standards for physical education. Those included students participating regularly in physical activity, competency in motor skills and movement patterns to perform a variety of physical activity, students demonstrating an understanding of movement concepts, principles and strategies to apply to the learning and performance of physical activity, students maintaining a health-enhancing level of physical fitness, students exhibiting responsible personal and social behavior that respects themselves and others in physical activity settings and students valuing physical activity for health and enjoyment.

Quinn said he hopes to instill in his students the need to be active every day.

He discusses with his students different ways to be active and healthy from walking the dog, to picking up their toys, to dancing to doing a high-intensity workout.

"I want to make them lifelong movers," he said.

Quinn, a Fairless graduate who has spent the past two years as a physical education teacher, said he believes he can lay the groundwork in the younger students to help them lead healthy lives.

"In general, kids typically lose interest in physical education as they get older," he said. "It's one of the reasons I like being at the elementary school. I want to make them excited about getting up and moving. I want to light that fire under them."

Recently, the state required districts to meet benchmarks in physical education.

Students in second and fifth grades will be assessed throughout the school year as part of the state assessment, Quinn said.

"Physical education has changed completely from 10 years ago," he said.

Quinn said his students are assigned homework and they are excited to complete the work.

The students could be assigned to get up and move for 30 minutes or to keep track of their physical activities. Recently, the second-graders created posters teaching about different types of physical activities.

"I want them to enjoy doing it," he said. "I want them to learn it's fun but that it will make them stronger and their heart healthier."

John Charlton, ODE spokesperson, said the new report cards track if students are successful in meeting the benchmarks.

He said research indicates that physical activity increases brain cognition and reduces student anxiety.

"Quality health and physical education programs taught but certified instructors help build the critical thinking and interpersonal skills children need to make good decisions about their health and wellness," Charlton wrote in an e-mail.

He said school districts create healthy and supportive learning environments that promote school success reflected in increased test scores, decreased tardiness, absenteeism and truancy rates, decreased discipline incidences and increased graduation rates.

Skate on

Quinn said he hopes to be able to bring back the skating program next year.

"It's a full-body workout and the kids don't realize how hard they are working because they are having fun," he said. "When they take off their helmets, they are drenched in sweat."

Elementary Assistant Principal Colleen Kornish said the skating program is building confidence in the student skaters.

At a recent skating party held by a school organization, Kornish noticed many fourth- and fifth-graders skating with confidence.

"You could tell a difference (from the other skaters)," she said. "We are teaching them lifelong health activities.

But don't tell the students that; they think it is fun.

Ten-year-old Paige Lowder and some of her classmates agree the best thing about skating: Going fast.

Up next ... lacrosse.