Today we are happy to include part of an interview with Ashton Tate from The Teacher’s Lounge podcast. Ashton is from Franklin, Tennessee, and he’s the founder of Glory to Glory Fitness and creator of the F.O.R.M. Curriculum. He joins us to talk to us about physical education and health education as a topic, but also to share some of the resources that he has developed for faith-based schools. If you’d like to hear the whole interview, please visit the Teacher’s Lounge here.
Michael Arnold: You’ve created a curriculum resource for health education. We want to unpack that a little bit later on, but I thought we’d start with a hook and let you give an elevator pitch of what that curriculum is and what it looks like.
Ashton Tate: We have an online platform called the FORM Curriculum that is a turnkey physical education and health education curriculum. So it has animated videos, it’s got nutrition challenges, it’s got devotional guides, it’s got movement challenges, helping students cover all the standards and learn everything that they need to about health and PE to really help them build a solid foundation when they’re young so that they can continue in those things when they graduate get older. So, there’s all the lessons that they need, but it’s really about helping them to actually learn and apply more and more as they get older and they walk through their journey at school.
Michael Arnold: Great. So by “turnkey” you mean a teacher could literally download this material and use it? It’s ready to go, with their students of any age? What are the grade levels?
Ashton Tate: It’s K through 12, and everything is done for the teachers. So they would have their own login and then we sit down with the teachers. I kind of like to think of the curriculum as a service.It’s not like, Hey, you’re going to buy this one time and then you’re never going to hear from us again. We actually sit down with the teachers at the school and look at their schedule. We work with really big schools or with really small schools, and then help them to implement it and fit it into their schedule. Then we help them to plug it in to take work off of the teachers and give the students really engaging and fun material.
Michael Arnold: Let’s talk about the need or the problem that you’re trying to help faith-based schools work through or address as a result of these resources. Why are you doing this? What are you trying to help schools do?
Ashton Tate: I can share a little of my story too, and then share a little bit of what our mission is and what we’re doing. When I was a junior in high school I was actually almost 300 pounds. I just really struggled with health for years. I was pre-diabetic and had horrible acid reflux. I played all the sports. I did all the stuff you were supposed to do as a kid. I moved a lot, but my PE teachers never really taught, Here’s how you actually apply all these things that you’re learning. It was just all this information and I didn’t know what to do with all of it. As I kept researching stuff, there’s so much stuff out there. I mean, you can Google how to be healthy, and there are so many different opinions. It was just really confusing.
Michael Arnold: And not all of it is good, right?
Ashton Tate: Not all of them are correct. Even later, when I went to school for all this, one textbook said one thing, another certification said another thing, and even the experts can’t agree on this stuff.
And so I was like, what do I do? A lot of my issues had to do with self-control and with what I was eating. So I just asked God for help and He helped me to lose over a hundred pounds. I started growing in Him and started getting with leaders, getting into the Word more and just started taking care of myself. I started maintaining that progress and people started asking for help.
It was really cool what God was doing. Then COVID hit. We’d had a gym and trainers applying biblical principles to health for adults with just amazing results. It was really cool, but when COVID hit,we had to go fully online, which ended up not being too bad for us. We made everything better and the results were even better. We were helping people in their forties and fifties and sixties. They were getting great results, but every single one of them was saying, “Hey, this is really simple, great stuff and nobody ever taught me this. I wish I would’ve learned this when I was in high school.”
We were working with business leaders a lot of the time. And one of the main determinants or precursors of their success was playing sports. They all had a really hard work ethic from playing sports or whatever they were doing.. They had played sports, but then once they were done with the sports, they had no idea how to maintain and how to take care of themselves because everything had been anchored to sports. They ended up having three kids and a full-time job, and they didn’t know what to do to stay healthy. And so it just felt like God told us that we weren’t really fixing the root problems of why our health in America is the way that it is.
And so we felt like He told us to create resources for kids and for students. I heard a stat that really kind of spurred us to do this. It was on the CDC’s website from a study that they did that said that by the year 2030, seven years from now, 86.3% of adults will either be overweight or obese on a BMI scale. And the study goes on to show that it’s based on trends over the past 30 or so years. And I was just like, That’s insanity. That’s just crazy! So we decided to make this curriculum.
I hadn’t really worked a ton with kids, but one of the pastors at my church writes a ton of curriculum for Lifeway, a lot of their main curriculum. And so I asked him, “Hey, can you help me? Can I hire you to script all of this out, to teach these principles to kids?” So, we created a whole curriculum to help students learn the foundational principles of good health while they’re young, so that they can serve God and serve others better and do all that they’re called to do.
So the main kind of mission for what we’re doing with the FORM Curriculum and with Glory to Glory Fitness, is quality health education for every student in America. How can we help kids? Because I believe the way to change the health of our nation and the health in America is to impact and equip the next generation. If each generation continues to not be taught these things and just checks off the box of physical education as if it’s not important–It doesn’t really matter. Just cover the information. Oh, it’s just an elective–If we continue to treat health education like that, we’re going to continue to get worse. And so that’s really what we’re about, just making sure that every student has the materials they need. They may not make the choice to do it. It’s not easy, but we want to make sure that everybody has that even playing field and has the resources for that.
Michael Arnold: That’s great information. I feel like we just jumped into the deep end. Back up just a little bit and kind of break that apart. I love the fact that this comes from not only your own personal physical journey, but your own personal spiritual journey as well. And when you mentioned prayer, my mind went to where James tells us, “If any man lacks wisdom, let him ask of God.”
So this is something that God is interested in. He can lead us to Truth, and He can guide us as we’re trying to understand these things. Why were you inspired to go that route? What caused you to say, “Hey, I need help. God, help me here.”
Ashton Tate: At first I kind of did it for the wrong reasons. When I was in high school, I had a crush on this girl as high school boys do. And I was like, Man, I’m going to lose weight to impress this girl. It was that, and being tired of being made fun of.
And then as I started doing it and losing the weight and I started seeing how good I felt and how much more confident I was, I started seeing how much more energy I had for the day. And, at the same time, I started really growing in my relationship with the Lord and getting with leaders. So it merged those two things. God has given me this body to steward so that I can do all that He’s called me to do. It’s designed in the same way a car was designed by the manufacturer; my body is designed in a specific way to be able to be a vehicle to do what I’m called to do in this life.
Michael Arnold: As you sustained that, as you experienced success in your own personal life, your friends and other people who were aware of your journey, started asking for your help, right? And that kind of pushed you into this area of doing some fitness coaching, right?
Ashton Tate: If you would’ve told me when I was in high school, I’d be in health and education, I probably would’ve laughed at you. This isn’t what I grew up being like. When I was a kid, I wanted to be a SWAT officer and just bust down doors. Obviously that’s not what I’m doing, but a lot of it was just obedience. The Lord had worked all these things out. And people started seeing that I was maintaining my progress and started asking for help and I was like, Sure, I’ll tell you what I’m doing. It just kept growing and kept growing, and my first two clients that ever hired me both lost about a hundred pounds. People just kept asking for help.
Michael Arnold: And that’s how Glory to Glory Fitness was formed, through people asking you to help them and you pursuing that. I think that’s important when we think about curriculum development. I think teachers want to know that the curriculum is coming from a research-based space, data driven, but also that the people writing it know what they’re talking about and have lived it not just with themselves, but have helped other people be successful.
Ashton Tate: The health industry is just so messed up in a lot of ways now. Anybody can be certified as a personal trainer. There’s so much stuff out there that isn’t research-based. For me, when I’m looking at anything that I want to implement in health or that I want to help a client with, there are three lenses that I put it through.
One, research-based, right? We have to have an evidence-based approach to it because if the research isn’t solid on it and the science doesn’t back it up, then it’s probably not going to work.
Two, the biblical aspect of it. Am I thinking rightly about this? There may be something that’s scientific. There are studies that show that this is going to work and get me where I need to be, but maybe I’m doing it for the wrong reasons, or maybe I’m not thinking rightly about it. To have sustainable health, transformation comes by the renewing of the mind. And so if we don’t change the way that we’re thinking about it, if we don’t let God help us with that, it’s not going to be sustainable. You may do something for a couple months, six months, even a year, but about five years from now, ten years from now, we’re not going to be able to sustain that progress because we’re not thinking about it right. So biblical aspects slash how we’re thinking about it to that one scientific and data-driven approach.
And then number three is historical evidence. When we’re thinking about health nowadays, we often don’t look past the last 10 years. Oh my gosh, look at all this new stuff and look at what we’re doing! It’s really looking at history, what people have done, what that’s resulted in, and then how that’s different from what we’re doing now. It’s having that full picture rather than getting super tunnel visioned.
So those are the three lenses that whenever I’m looking at something in health, I want to make sure that it checks all three boxes. It may be different for each person to check those boxes. So that’s what we try to do with the curriculum and when we are helping adults, making sure that we have a balanced approach because you can go out and you can get healthier. You can do the stuff and there’s evidence on it. But if you can’t sustain it, and if you’re not thinking about it right, it just won’t matter.
Michael Arnold: It’s not just for this class. We’re not just learning this for the test. We need to apply this beyond the class. We need to take this into our life. So what are some of the lifetime takeaways that you hope students will glean from your curriculum as you’ve prepared it for teachers to use?
Ashton Tate: One of the main ways that you help students have a lifetime takeaway and continue in it, is helping them to understand why. For example, I was horrible at math in high school, really bad. They put me in Finite Math. You just need to get this to graduate. I took that class and I was horrible at it. Then I graduated and I started taking Accounting I and II. I started taking all these other business finance classes because I have a minor in business as well. And I got A’s in every single one of them because I knew why I was doing it. This isn’t just some X and Y, and what the heck do I need to do this for? I’m never going to do this in my real life. That was my thought. When am I ever going to use this?
So for what we’re doing for kids, we have to help them to understand why they’re doing it. That’s why in the curriculum we talk about the biblical principles behind all of this. This is not my body. This is God’s body that He’s entrusted and given to me, and I am a steward of it in the same way that we’re stewards of money and the same way that we’re stewards of our cars or our houses or our families or our kids, or whatever it is.
We talk about getting a vision and a conviction of why we need to be healthy and anchoring that to the things that are important to our life that we’re called to. We talk about having community and partnership around us so that we can have the right people speaking into our lives. We talk about social media and not comparing ourselves to others. We talk about body image and all the different types. Those are just a couple things, but it’s really helping students to apply and think rightly about what they’re learning.
Michael Arnold: I think that relevance is so important. Why am I learning this? That’s one of the questions that we drive in curriculum development and for biblical integration especially: Why would God want us to learn this stuff? And I’ll tell you, when I was in PE class in elementary and high school, I missed that. But if we’re living a sedentary lifestyle, if we’re filling our bodies with junk food, we’re probably not able to bring glory to God to the extent that we should or we could. Let’s see our body as an instrument for God’s glory. I think that’s so powerful.
Curriculum in Detail
Michael Arnold: Some of the guides that you’ve prepared help teachers guide their students into the embrace of a healthy lifestyle. Share with us a little more about your curriculum, some of the features and components of your curriculum, if you don’t mind.
Ashton Tate: All of the lessons, any of the content, all of it, you can have. We give teachers links they can send home with the students. Any of our movement videos–we have a warm up, a cool down, and then a movement circuit–you can send those resources home with them so that they have a structure and they can follow along with that in their own setting. It’s just simple, functional motor movements that they can do anywhere. So they could do it in their living room, in a garage, outside or whatever. So there is coaching and guidance, but they’re still having to do it on their own time.
We have our nutrition challenges. There’s a short, animated video. Nutrition is one of the hardest things about health these days. It just gets really confusing. And so we made a framework that I’ve been teaching to adults for years and years. It’s so simple and it breaks down every meal that they need to be eating, or a snack or whatever, into four really simple categories that they need to get. As long as they get each of those four categories with each meal, and it’s from a really good quality source, they’re set.
Then we have an assessment where they can come into class and fill them out. It takes two to three minutes and it’s not about tracking. This is an academic assessment. We have teachers that have different things that they do and that’s fine, but we primarily like to assess the habits that they’re creating and the consistency. So it’s not how many pushups you can do, or how amazing your workout was. It’s about how many times you moved this week. How many times this week did you get in one of our movement sessions for 30 minutes? It’s tracking the consistency in the habits.
Michael Arnold: I love that component. If you’re going to have homework, please have PE homework, right? If you’re interested in focusing on developing habits, then you have to have homework. That is a way not only to influence a student, but maybe even to influence the home environment towards better, more healthy trends as well. That’s amazing.
Let’s try to put a fine point on a few of the components of your curriculum. It could be used as a health course, it could be used in a PE class, or it could be used by a homeroom teacher who just wants to help their students develop healthier habits.
Ashton Tate: We sit down with the school and then we help them with all these aspects of the curriculum, and we look to use them in a more health class type setting. And some aspects, they can use more in the PE setting. Or maybe they only have PE for these grades, and so we just all use it. We’ve had schools use it for great summer programs. We’ve had schools use it for afterschool programs. We have schools use some of the warmup and the cool down stuff for sports team stuff. Everything is super flexible. The way that we have it broken down and the four pillars that we have it broken down into make it really easy to navigate.
Michael Arnold: And it sounds to me, based on our conversation, that the biblical integration is not just tacked on at the end, like here’s the Bible verse to focus on, or here’s the character trait. Maybe there is some of that, but it sounds like it’s so inclusive. We’re focusing on who we are as humans and our role as individuals in God’s kingdom, which I think is really powerful.
Tell us quickly where people can go to get more information about your products and services.
Ashton Tate: You can go to formcurriculum.com. Then on that page, you can choose what type of education you’re in, if it’s homeschool education, if it’s Christian education, if it’s public or private education, you click on that and then it’ll take you to the specific edition that would be relevant to you.You can get free previews of all the content, so you can actually go in and watch the content.
Michael Arnold: And FORM is an acronym that stands for?
Ashton Tate: F is for functional fitness. O is for optimal nourishment. R is for rest and recovery. And then M is for multiplied maintenance. What we teach in the curriculum is within this framework. In every season of your life, we are looking to have a good form of movement and we are functionally moving and partnering with how our bodies are made, we want to have a simple routine and frameworks around what we need to be eating, and we want to have a simple routine around our sleep and our rest and our posture and stress management, things like that.
And then multiply maintenance is all about how we apply all of that and having the right people around us, having the right goals set. Preparing ourselves in the right way. Even that in and of itself is a simple checklist of, hey, in this season, what’s my movement? What’s my nutrition look like? It’s all a framework.
Michael Arnold: If you had the opportunity to share with any educator about the importance of lifelong health, what would you tell them?
Ashton Tate: I would say that God is wanting to bring revival to their health, and that whatever their past experiences have been, whatever failures they may have seen, whatever struggles they’ve had for however many years, whether it’s with health education, or whether it’s with their personal health, there’s grace for that.
Michael Arnold: Ashton, I appreciate your passion for helping people be as healthy as possible, and I’m also a little bit convicted by it, so thanks for sharing. Thanks for what you’re doing. It’s been great having you today.
Ashton Tate: Of course! Thanks for having me.