This year, schools are taking part in their droves, with students, staff and even parents taking part in daily workouts. P.E. teaching staff are taking the lead, creating fun and engaging activities to get everyone involved. From yoga to body combat, community dance to team sports, exercise is all around us throughout the month of November.
Physical education is a part of school life throughout the UAE, so why are so many schools enthusiastically participating in Dubai Fitness Challenge? What does a month-long exercise initiative add to what they are already providing? The benefits, according to P.E. heads across Dubai, include opportunities for students to experience a wide range of different sports and activities, with the potential of getting hooked on something new.
We asked Sarah Sullivan, P.E. coordinator at Safa British School, what she perceived to be the benefits of taking part:
“By providing students with choices and new experiences during Dubai 30x30, we hope all our students will find physical activities which will excite and motivate them. DFC provides an opportunity for students to foster a routine that includes daily physical activity, and discover the wellbeing linked to this. If kids can find a new passion during this month, it can lead to lifelong positive changes.”
Samuel Baldwin, P.E. Teacher at Bloom World Academy, added:
“DFS introduces our students to new sports and experiences, while making new friends from across the school. We hope these experiences will encourage students to carry on participating in sport and activities for as long as they are able.”
Many schools are using a token approach, where students check off activities in passports or score cards, encouraging participation in a broad range of sport-based experienced. This, say school leaders, encourages a culture of having a go, with the possibility of some less standard sports, such as rowing, golf or karate, attracting interest.
Jo Tuck, P.E. Teacher at Durham School Dubai, told us:
"Students are marking down their efforts on their 30 X 30 score cards and also have an additional challenge of covering 30 km (or the full marathon distance if they wish) during this month. It's great to see our students take on this challenge and for them to acknowledge how active they are."
Safa British School have taken a similar approach, using a 'passport' in which students can place stickers received for taking part in a 30 minute sporting activity daily. P.E. Coordinator Sarah Sullivan explained:
"This year, we introduced our Dubai 30x30 Passports, so students can collect stickers each day for their 30 minutes of exercise. We run a Safa Striders club each morning where students gather to walk or run a mile to kick start their morning. We also run Wake Up, Shake Ups for our younger year groups with Dubai Performing Arts and our PE Team. We have invited in specialist sports companies to provide workshops, introducing our students to sports they may not have tried before, such as cricket and rugby."
It’s not just about keeping fit, say P.E. leaders. Schools are also using the initiative as a tool to further develop their school communities. Many schools are engaging parents and staff in sporting activities, facilitating connections and, they hope, building on parent-teacher relationships and a sense of belonging for the whole family.
Ranches Primary School have organised a dads versus teachers football match and a mums versus teachers netball match, while Safa British School has encouraged parents to participate in body combat and yoga workouts. One of Dubai's newest schools, Bloom World Academy, has used this opportunity to bring parents, students and teachers together, with a daily 30 minute high intensity community workout. Parents of preschoolers have not been left out, and are even leading aerobics classes for other parents at Jumeirah International Nursery Downtown.
With two weeks still remaining until the end of Dubai Fitness Challenge 2022, schools are hopeful that this initiative with result in a continued interest in sport. Schools have reported receiving parent requests for parent and staff sports clubs to continue, and have expressed surprise at the high level of parent participation in particular. They have also noted a general heightened enthusiasm for sports activities from students.
Sarah Sullivan, P.E. Coordinator at Safa British School, told us:
"It has been amazing to see our teachers all getting involved, role-modelling a healthy start to the day to all our students. Our parents have loved the body combat workouts and wish to continue these sessions even after Dubai 30x30 ends. The feedback from our students after workshops has been inspiring as many discovered a new sport they love and would like to pursue."