Wesley Chapel Elementary Gets Healthy, Wins Award
Wesley Chapel Elementary students have found the cure for being a “couch potato,” while still enjoying their after-school television. What’s the cure, you ask? Find a hula-hoop and keep it spinning through each commercial that comes on.
Through the use of similar programs, Wesley Chapel Elementary (WCE) is being recognized as a Bronze National Recognition winner by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s “Healthy Schools” program, which is sponsored by the American Heart Association (AHA).
According to the press release from the Alliance, more than 14,000 schools nationwide participate and are eligible for Bronze, Silver or Gold awards, “based on their level of achievement” in reversing the childhood obesity epidemic. These achievement goals are outlined on the Alliance’s website and include meeting specific health requirements in several areas including school meals, health education, employee wellness and physical education.
WCE physical education specialist Chris Gorman will receive the award on behalf of the school during an awards ceremony later this year in Little Rock, Ark. at the William J. Clinton Presidential Center, where former U.S. President Bill Clinton will be speaking.
“You have to meet certain criteria to qualify to actually get an award,” says Gorman. “Even though the Bronze is the first (award) you can qualify for, it’s still very strenuous to meet those standards for a healthy school.”
Gorman says that the school was able to meet those healthy school standards by initiating fun, fitness-driven clubs for the students to participate in on Fridays, such as kickball, soccer, aerobics and volleyball. The school also put together a “fitness lab,” for not only the students, but also for the teachers.
“It’s pretty much a full gym,” Gorman explains. “Our faculty can work out before, during or after school.”
Teachers can bring their students to the lab and put them in one of 27 different “fitness stations,” with a different piece of exercise equipment at each station. Gorman says that there are a couple of stationary fitness bikes, punching bags and yoga mats. To keep students from staying at one particular station, he created a CD with 45-second clips of songs. Every time the song stops and changes, he says, the kids move to a different station, and the cycle continues.
Another activity that helped earn the school the Alliance award was through what Gorman calls “commercial calisthenics,” which keeps kids and parents alike active while they watch television. Every time a commercial comes on, the parents andkids do something active, such as hula hooping, a set of jumping jacks or sit-ups, instead of sitting and watching commercials. When whatever they were watching comes back on, they get to rest.
“A lot of the parents have continued doing that with their sons and daughters throughout the year,” he says. “Hopefully, it’s been a good change for them.”
To be considered, the school had to fill out a contract with the Alliance that said that the school was going to try to meet the group’s health and fitness standards. Gorman says that all of the data collection was done through the computer. He submitted photos of the kids using the fitness center, as well as descriptions of the different activities they were doing with the equipment in the center.
To keep the kids involved, Gorman says that the teachers would give the students questionnaires and let them circle their five favorite activities. Based on the data, he set up stations in the fitness center that were specifically chosen by the students. Students also keep an “exercise log” in which they can track their fitness progress, detailing what exercises they did outside of school and for how long. Students take part in various diverse activities from horseback riding to skateboarding.
“It was a lot of hard work to get the criteria met,” he says. “But, in the long run, I think we really made a difference.”
For more information about the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, including a list of all the criteria that WCE met, please visit HealthierGeneration.org.