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Doing What Is Good, Right, and True in PE

When Victor Manruiquez began his career as a physical education teacher 10 years ago, he had “a rude awakening.” He discovered there was a good amount of negative attitudes towards physical education- the students were not enjoying it and it seemed like the other teachers and administrators did not value it. He realized that he needed to do something “to have a positive impact in the lives of children.” In a community that is struggling with high amounts of poverty and gang activity, Manruiquez wanted to create a program that would help them develop a love for physical activity as well as self-respect that would keep them off of the streets and on a path towards college.

With a student population that was more than 80 percent Latino, he needed to develop a program that was culturally relevant. He thought back to his time as a child and the activities he loved like camping, being in the mountains and fishing. He thought about how important it is to let children know that they are loved and respected, to bolster their confidence rather than break it down. The idea he came up with is called Trucha Camp©- a physical education effort that works to increase opportunities for physical activity in a way that resonates with his students and their families. It is also an opportunity to build student character. Trucha has special significance to the students at Sanger. Not only does it mean ‘trout,’ the state fish of California, it also means to strive for excellence, to do what is good, right and true (GRT).

The phrase “be trucha” (be smart) is commonly used throughout the school and homes in this community. Students are taught the importance of GRT through physical activity and education. “To give our traditional games more spice we call them Trucha Tag, Trucha Golf, etc. We use plastic fish instead of bean bags and integrate them into many of our games.” Students in the Los Tennis Shoes Fitness Club wear pedometers and keep track of their steps. They celebrate their efforts at the end of the year by inviting families and community members to the Menudo Breakfast of Champions.

Once a week students are invited to come to school one hour early to participate in activities such as “jumping rope, marching, chanting songs during exercise, running, holding flags, and making rhythms to usher in the day making a joyful noise. In Trucha Camp© exercise is fun and open for all students to have a camp-like experience.” At the core of the program is an emphasis on camping- learning about orienteering, hiking, fishing, building tents and survival skills.

Joining the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program helped add momentum to Trucha Camp© as the newly formed school wellness council decided to focus on increasing the opportunities students have for physical activity throughout the day. With the Trucha Camp© concept in place, the Healthy Schools Program provided structure and support, including tools for organized and positive play, so that fun and relevant physical activities could be further incorporated in the school day.

Manruiquez has worked with his school wellness council to look for additional ways to incorporate Trucha Camp© throughout the school day. The results have been very positive. Physical activity is part of each school day and Manruiquez notes that students enjoy participating in Trucha Camp©. He said that in addition to developing sound character through GRT, children have also been able to become part of the positive change effort at Sanger. This year Trucha Camp© celebrated its tenth anniversary and the community came together with a fitness event, a fundraising effort to raise money for college scholarships and a parade for the Trucha Camp© Kings and Queens from each grade.

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