Thursday, February 10, 2011
Focus on fitness
By SUE WATSON
Parents, students and faculty participation on International Walk to School Day in October helped Holly Springs Primary School come in fifth in the state.
School nurse Lorena Adams, who helped organize the event, said parents met at the Marshall County Health Department, and other community participants such as Mayor Andre’ DeBerry showed up to celebrate the fitness day. From there, everyone walked to the school at the end of South Maury Street.
“We were joined by Mayor DeBerry and assisted by Chief (Robert) Pearson, because we have no sidewalks on Maury,” she said.
Because there are few houses facing the street along South Maury and because of no sidewalks, the walk to school may not become a fad, but it does call attention to the need for communities and parents and children to get outdoors and exercise.
“Of course, you would not let our age children walk alone,” Adams said. “They say ‘walking school buses’ (or walking to school) also generates community cohesiveness. You get to know your neighbors better and it is safer.”
International Walk to School Day calls attention to children and families walking, she said.
Adams has served as a liaison with the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi on a number of fitness and health initiatives.
The primary school works on a number of other health and fitness initiatives.
All Holly Springs city schools are in the healthy school program through the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. The goal is to lead the charge against childhood obesity by engaging industry leaders, educators, parents and children in the initiative.
The alliance has worked to get lower calorie foods and beverages in schools, Adams said.
Also, children at the primary school have an outdoor recess every day when weather is conducive to playground activity. Studies have shown that frequent activity breaks relaxes mental tension so students can do better academically.
“We do what you call a jamming minute where students can jump in place and incorporate the classroom lesson indoors,” Adams said. “They can jump and count five jumps on one foot, then jump and count five on the other.”
This school year the primary school has gone to no fried foods and has whole wheat bread several times a week. The school offers two fruits and two vegetables at every meal and milk.
The State of Mississippi has mandated no high sugar items such as sodas in high school vending machines - another healthy initiative in schools.
Some classes have their own projects at the primary school.
Two second grade classes have a “Walkin’ To Memphis” project. The distances students walk inside the building and outdoors as well are tracked by teachers and converted from feet walked to miles walked. The class will create a graph showing their progress, for instance, when they log enough miles they can mark on the map that they have walked to Red Banks, then to Byhalia, then to Olive Branch and so on.
Adams said children are supposed to have an hour a day of physical activity and less than two hours a day of screen time under the 5-2-1 initiative. That is five fruits and vegetables a day, two hours of t.v., video, or computer recreation time and one hour of physical activity.
Adults should get 30 minutes exercise a day, she said.
Another initiative at the school is the spring and fall garden planted and maintained by Mrs. McFarland and Mrs. Crawford’s second grade class. The project is to plant and maintain two raised garden beds. The Community Foundation provided a youth service grant to build and install the raised beds.
The primary school also has a School Wellness Council which meets several times a year and includes parents, teachers, and community members.
“We sponsored family fitness night last Thursday in the gym,” said Adams. “We had about 35 people and exercised, played basketball, and held DDR (dance, dance revolution). We measured height, weight and blood pressure and calculated the body mass index (BMI) on adults.
“The whole idea since I’ve been here (11 years) is to see the school and community come together,” Adams said.
The Eddie Lee Smith Jr. Multi-Purpose Building has been a good resource and its use has been encouraged by director Ken McMullen and the mayor, she said.
The school district also has encouraged fitness and has hired a nurse for each campus.
Physical education teacher Vicki Rodgers has also had a great impact in organizing activities for children. Students go to PE once a week in the gym where they learn team sports like soccer, basketball, hockey and olympics.
“She puts her heart and soul in it,” said Adams. “She has worked to get playground equipment and PE plays a big part.”
Rodgers loves teaching children activities.
“They are natural,” said Rodgers. “Most of them come ready to play to the gym. They have their tennis shoes on and are very obedient-type children.”
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