After two years of virtual workouts, the world’s largest exercise class: Project A.C.E.S., was in-person once again at Valley View Elementary School in Montville Township, New Jersey.
Project A.C.E.S. – All Children Exercise Simultaneously – was founded 34 years ago. Physical Education teacher and acclaimed author, Len Saunders, created the program as a way to inspire kids to get moving. He felt that knowing kids all over the globe were exercising at the same time, would help students everywhere understand the importance of exercise and healthy habits.
The entire Valley View population of 357 students, in grades Pre-k through 5th, excitedly participated in the in-person return of the internationally renowned Project A.C.E.S. activity. Traditionally an estimated five million students around the globe participate in Project A.C.E.S. as a way of promoting healthy habits in both children and adults.
The May 4, 2022 anniversary marked the first Valley View Elementary in-person, outdoor, A.C.E.S. event since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Video of the 2022 A.C.E.S. can be viewed on the Montville Township Public Schools' YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds.
“The Kids had so much fun,” said Saunders. The dedicated and award-winning Valley View educator, who has published several books on fitness for children, noted that he was grateful the weather allowed the students to celebrate the 34th Anniversary of the world-wide A.C.E.S. phenomenon.
“I got emotional watching it,” Saunders said. “For two years we could not do it. This was nice. It was nice having something ‘normal.’”
Four fifth-grade students: Lilly Uhl (A), Diya Manchanda (C), Max Davis (E) and Vansh Patel (S), wearing t-shirts that spelled out A.C.E.S., led the crowd through a series of aerobic and strengthening exercises.
“I felt really excited,” said Manchanda.
Patel agreed, adding, “And, also kind of nervous.”
Uhl explained that the four leaders had many things to focus on as they guided their school community through the twenty-minute A.C.E.S. exercises.
“I wanted to help everyone learn about the importance of exercise and their health,” Uhl said, about how she prepared for her role as a leader.
For the Pre-k, kindergarten and first grade students of Valley View, this year’s A.C.E.S. was the first opportunity they have ever had to truly participate in the school’s annual A.C.E.S. tradition where everyone gathers on the playground to exercise together at one time.
All four leaders said that it was an exciting event.
“It was fun. The kids were fun,” said Davis. “They were so enthusiastic.”
The biggest surprise for the A.C.E.S. leaders was the enthusiasm.
“They had so much energy,” Davis said.
“Yeah, they were screaming for ‘YMCA,’” Patel noted.
“It was great,” agreed Manchanda.
The soundtrack for the event included popular music that the students have been using for workout inspiration in Physical Education classes all year – including their favorite, YMCA, by The Village People.
Despite overcast skies, at precisely 2:00 p.m., all students, faculty, administrators, as well as the Superintendent of Schools, Dr. René Rovtar, gathered on the playground with beach towels for exercise mats.
In 1988, Saunders, who has been with Montville Township Public Schools for 38 years, was looking for a fun way to help students understand the importance of regular exercise. His initial idea was to have the entire school exercise together. That program grew into Project A.C.E.S. where many schools exercised at the same time.
In April, 1991, A.C.E.S. really took off when Sports Illustrated printed a shout out: “To Lenny Saunders, a teacher at Valley View Elementary School in Montville. NJ, for organizing Project A.C.E.S. -- All Children Exercise[ing] Simultaneously. [In May] 5 million kids around the world will participate in an exercise session.”
Since then, Project A.C.E.S. has been featured on Good Morning America, Classroom Close-up NJ, CBS, ABC and BBC News, One-on-One with Steve Adubato, The Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine for Kids, Women’s Day, Weight Watchers Magazine, US News and World Report, Better Homes and Gardens, Weekly Reader, National Geographic, and many other national and international news outlets.
“Project ACES aims to educate children about the importance of lifelong fitness, and to end the negative stereotype that children are physically unfit,” Saunders explains on his website, lensaunders.com. “Exercise can lower the chances of coronary heart disease, which includes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and physical inactivity. Project A.C.E.S. makes fitness fun!”