If you’ve gone through grade school, middle school, and high school, chances are you’ve taken part in physical education, also known as Phys Ed. or PE class. In PE, you might participate in some type of physical activity, whether that means running, playing dodgeball, swimming and more.

Personally, I never liked PE in school. I always tried to get my doctor to write me a note to get out of it (anyone else?). However, it would’ve been cool to have the option to do something a little different—something greater for mankind that didn’t mean you had to walk into your third period English class sweating like a pig!

That’s where the Alternative Learning Center in Dubuque, Iowa comes in. The school, which teaches juniors and seniors who are at risk of dropping out, offers students a different option to getting their PE credit: they’re allowed to do community service in lieu of the class.

Students can choose from a list of approved volunteer activities to do for local disabled or elderly people. The job can range from anything that these people might not be able to do themselves— garden work to tending to chicken coops and more—but one of the most popular choices is yard work.

“The students and I and other students come out and help them. Could be raking leaves, pulling weeds, cutting grass, cleaning gutters, just depends on what they need,” said ALC teacher and leader in the program, Tim Hitzler.

The reason behind the program is great: That it helps both people—it helps the students become better people, and it helps the people in need complete tasks they might not have been able to otherwise. We think this is much better (and beneficial) than playing dodgeball in PE class!

Sure, not all the students are exactly thrilled to be doing chores in their spare time, but Hitzler says that by the time they actually get the work done, the students feel absolutely amazing about themselves.

“The students aren’t typically too excited at the beginning but once they get involved and start doing the yard work they become more motivated,” he said. “What they really like is helping people. They really like giving back to people and meeting the person. We get to give back to the community, but the kids feel a sense of accomplishment, too.”

Hitzler first started the program about four years ago and it’s been growing every since. In fact, the entire Iowan Department of Education has a very important perspective on alternative education:

“In Iowa, alternative education is a perspective, not a procedure or a program. It is based upon a belief that there are many ways to become educated, as well as many types of environments and structures within which this may occur,” the Iowa Department of Education’s website reads. “Further, it recognizes that all people can be educated and that it is in society’s interest to ensure that all are educated.”

What a cool concept! Would you have preferred a community service option to PE class? What do you think of this initiative?