WITS Play Day Empowers a New School

Wellness in the Schools Play Days are known to draw excited crowds: from the outdoor recess yard of CS 55 in the Bronx to the classroom and auditorium takeovers at West Prep Academy in Manhattan and PS 160 in Queens, the energy is abundant. The WITS Play Day itself is a celebration, as WITS schools “win” the special event by demonstrating the most consistent participation in daily fitness breaks. 

This year, Wellness in the Schools began its programming at a new school in the Bronx: Samara Community School. Samara is a Spanish/English Dual Language elementary school serving around 300 students. In September, WITS Coach Errol Jones eagerly introduced himself to the students and staff, knowing it could take time before WITS programming became a staple in the school environment. 

Day by day, students became more familiar with the daily fitness breaks, looking forward to physical activity and the fun classroom games WITS Coach Errol taught them. By the spring, the entire school’s participation in daily fitness breaks was outstanding and so many classes were signing on to move together that they won a WITS Play Day! 

If you have ever found yourself in a classroom of excited elementary students, it’s hard to imagine anything that could top that energy level. In this April’s Play Day, the energy multiplied over and over again in Samara’s auditorium as groups of students participated in yoga and Zumba. 

A group of kindergarteners learning yoga 

Most groups of students who walked into the auditorium were eager but shy, watching the instructors with awe but still a little nervous about moving around in the space. Yogi Beans instructor Caitlin Borek led students through a series of stretches: Be a Cat! A cow! Into downward dog! Students explored their balance in the Eagle Pose, and giggles started spreading around the room with the fun challenge of staying upright on one leg. As students’ confidence increased, Caitlin led the room through guided positive affirmations, having everyone repeat after her: 

“Put your hands on your head and say I am very smart.” I am very smart!

“Hands on your heart and say I am very kind.” I am very kind! 

“Hands on your legs and say I am very strong.” I am very strong!

With a room full of brave voices, yoga turned into Zumba, and students jumped up to dance to music. Song after song, students learned new dance moves and invented their own moves, too. Samara’s Principal Danielle Derrig joined in with her students during Zumba, dancing along and proudly watching her students express creativity on the dance floor. 

Yoga pose by yoga pose, dance step by dance step, hundreds of students learned to express themselves through movement and having fun with their classmates. These eager students will return to classrooms more inspired, focused, and ready to engage with all the new lessons elementary school will bring them.