MONTVILLE, NJ - The world’s largest exercise class originated in Montville, New Jersey, twenty-eight years ago. A.C.E.S., All Children Exercise Simultaneously, was created by Valley View Elementary School Physical Education Teacher, Leonard Saunders. Schools all around the globe sign up to unite students in simultaneous exercise.
Conceived as an outdoor activity for schools to engage the entire student body in exercise all at once, Valley View’s 2016 A.C.E.S. event was moved indoors for the third year in a row due to threatening skies. But students and faculty were not deterred.
Fifth grade students Caitlin Olensky, Natalie Yu, Ethan Stozenski and Peter Elias seamlessly led all 420 Valley View Students in just over thirty minutes of non-stop movement. The four had trained since March to prepare for any possibility regarding weather or location. Together the leaders’ shirts spelled out A.C.E.S. However, because of the rainy skies, the student leaders were forced to split apart in order to share leadership responsibilities in two separate but connected venues. Leaders with the letters A. and E. (Linsky and Stozenski) went to the lunch room, while the C. and S. leaders (Yu and Elias) took charge in the gymnasium.
Excitement was high as Pre-K through second grade filled the lunch room, and grades three to five crowded into the gymnasium.
Superintendent Dr. René Rovtar joined the students for the annual event.
“Millions of children are exercising together today to fight childhood obesity,” Saunders explained before the music and movement began.
Once the music started, Linsky and Stozenski and Yu and Elias took over.
“It was really exciting” said Olensky about leading the school in exercise.
All four agreed that the practice time they had put in since March, with the kindergarten to second grade gym classes, really helped to prepare them.
“It was fun practicing with every class,” said Yu.
“We met two times a week,” added Stozenski. “It was a lot of work but it was fun.”
Elias noted that becoming an A.C.E.S. leader was a surprise. “Mr. Saunders asked if we wanted to do this,” he said, “and I was shocked.”
All four fifth graders now have favorite exercises that they found to be especially exciting to lead. Olensky and Elias like jumping jacks, Yu is a fan of the plank, and Stozenski favors the push up.
“This was the best year yet,” said Saunders following A.C.E.S. 2016. “I could not have asked for four better leaders.”
The enthusiastic elementary physical education teacher explained that for the “first twenty-two years A.C.E.S. was held outside.”
“I never knew what to expect if it came indoors.” added Saunders. “But, now it has been held indoors four or five times, including every year for the past three years, and this year’s team did a great job leading their peers.”
A.C.E.S. is held on the first Wednesday in May every year. In celebration of the twenty-eighth anniversary, Saunders and his students were once again joined by students in schools and other organizations all around the world.
“A.C.E.S is one of my favorite days of the year,” said Valley View Principal Patricia Kennedy. “It is so much fun.”
Saunders, an award winning author of several physical fitness books, is an international expert on keeping kids motivated for exercise. He is the founder of the Youth Fitness Coalition, and author of the acclaimed book, “Keeping Kids Fit.” A.C.E.S. was his first global initiative designed to make a priority of physical fitness. An exercise expert, Saunders also founded “Exercise US,” an October exercise program which begins on the East Coast of the United States and continues west for ten hours. In “Exercise US,” continuous physical movement, shared by thousands of students in many schools, breaks across the nation’s time zones like a wave of exercise.
“A.C.E.S is not just for today,” Saunders told the students at the end of the thirty-minute event. “Exercise is for every day.”
Saunders is already gearing up for the 29th Anniversary. The event will be held on May 3, 2017. Schools and other organizations can sign up at lensaunders.com(http://lensaunders.com/aces/aces.html) to join Saunders, Valley View Elementary School students and children around the world in the exercise event that originates in Montville, New Jersey.
“If we can encourage just one student in the whole school to begin to exercise daily,” Saunders said, “Then A.C.E.S. is a success.”