Lucille Erwin Middle School’s Fuel Up to Play 60 Program Advisor Matt West has an important piece of advice for newcomers to the program: “Do not be afraid to let the students fail – the students learn so much from overcoming obstacles and re-tooling their ideas.”
West understands that the impulse as a teacher and program advisor is to set students up for success, but he emphasizes that with Fuel Up to Play 60, students come up with better ideas than adults and that letting them fail helps them learn more because they go back and revise their plan and find solutions to make it work.
“They know more about what the other students want to eat and what they want for fitness to get active at lunch,” explains West. “I watch these shy students present to our principal, get turned down, rework their proposal and get it approved. They come out of their shells and now they have this leadership in their voice – knowing that they can make a difference and they can handle rejection and come back from it. It’s changing lives.”
West has Fuel Up to Play 60 set up as a class at the middle school – one that is in high demand and very supported by the administration, parents and students.
“it’s pretty special because they can work after school, at lunch and during class every day on their projects,” explains West. “They even have time to celebrate their successes and talk about their failures and how to redesign projects to try again. That’s so powerful because it’s a real-world experience.”
And Fuel Up to Play 60 is the perfect framework for this type of experience because it is authentic – not a worksheet or a test – it is real world work and students get real leadership experience out of it.
“The students get to have fun and feel like they’re making a difference,” says West. “It is so different from what they do during the rest of the school day and it has this positive domino effect of making our school healthier and getting more awareness about nutrition and fitness and still having fun.”
Some of the projects the students at Lucille Erwin have worked on include painting the basketball courts, taste tests of different types of milk and string cheese and running a snack bar of healthy snacks. This spring, they hope to paint a football field on one of the blank fields at the school for students to play flag football on during recess.
“This program is a great fit for our school because we can allow students to follow their own interests – kids who love football can center their project around that and students who enjoy nutrition can work on that,” explains West. “I let them create their own groups and their own mission and how they will measure success – they’re having a blast and I’m just happy to be part of it.”