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MIAMI (CBSMiami) — It’s 10 a.m. on a Thursday morning and for the next hour and a half, the first graders at The Mandelstam School in South Miami will be tumbling, flipping, and stretching.

Gymnastics is part of the elementary school’s curriculum. And the kids love it.

Julia Garcia is a fifth grader at the school. “It’s made me stronger and flexible because we also do a lot of conditioning,” she said.

It’s a revolutionary way to look at physical education. The school’s founder, Rod Mandelstam, has been incorporating gymnastics in P. E. programs for decades.

“When the children finish 5th grade over here and go to middle school they absolutely rule at the sports,” said Mandelstam.

Pediatrics researcher for U Health, Doctor Sarah Messiah, agrees.

“I think gymnastics offers a really unique opportunity because, again, you’re building that flexibility and strength from a really young age. That stays with you,” Messiah said.

And numerous studies show physical education translates to academic improvement.

The National Academy of Sciences conducted a study that concluded active children tended to have stronger performance at school, especially in reading and mathematics.

“What physical activity does is it can improve brain function,” Said Messiah. “So when the children go back to the class room, they are ready to learn the uptick in information. The memory has improved.”

Mandelstam is a private school. So the administration has the luxury of choosing the curriculum. But some public schools in Miami-Dade County are trying to push for more active options, as well.

The rock climbing wall is a favorite for students at Nautilus Middle School in Miami Beach. They incorporate unique and more kid-friendly ways for the students to stay interested in P.E.,
dance classes, and video games that keep them moving, for example.

But realistically, many public schools in South Florida are reducing the amount of physical activity. So for them, Doctor Messiah says:

“If there’s a will, there’s a way. And there’s lots of places around town. If they want to do activity outside of school, they can. Sports programs, gyms, parks, etc.”

The result could be a love for being active in and out of the classroom.