By Jennifer Wohlleb
In Woodford County Schools, physical activity is a year-round pursuit,with everything from golf to biking to swimming available to students, in addition to the more traditional sports offerings. Walking clubs seem to be one of the more popular activities at most schools. Walking even led students at Simmons Elementary to lobby their local city and county leaders to get a sidewalk.
“There was a piece of property, about a third to a half-mile between the school and downtown – the school is about 1.5 miles from downtown – that the students couldn’t walk because it’s kind of a busy road,” said district PE Coordinator Melody Hamilton. “So the kids got together and they and their teacher went to the Woodford Fiscal Court and talked to the magistrates, and went to the Versailles City Council and talked to all the council members and said, ‘We need a sidewalk so we can walk back and forth. We don’t need a bus to drive us a mile-and-a-half to see our city government, and see the different things downtown. We need a sidewalk.’”
She said the students learned about issues such as easements and rights of way, and took turns calling each elected official. After six months, their persistence paid off. When Simmons had its Walk to School Day, Hamilton said nearly 85 percent of the student body participated, along with the county judge-executive, the planning and zoning director and some elected officials.
PHOTO: A student from Woodford County’s Huntertown Elementary School works across the climbing wall in the school’s gym. The district has seen a drop in districtwide body mass index and an increase in cardiovascular health during the past three years.
Hamilton said the district tries to promote activities that will lead to a lifetime of fitness, such as biking, swimming and golf. Woodford County Schools received a federal Carol M. White grant 3½ years ago and Hamilton said that has been instrumental in organizing the efforts.
“One of the things that has come from the grant that has been so beneficial to us is creating a K-12 scope and sequence of what’s going to be taught in health and PE,” she said. “So the right hand knows what the left hand is doing and we can build upon what we do from kindergarten all the way through when those kids have their last PE class in high school.”
Hamilton said the grant also has allowed them to track some student health data, which has seen some improvement in the past few years.
“The percentage of kids who engage in 60 minutes of daily physical activity, which was measured by pedometer, which we gave to every student at all of our schools, and those kids who got those 60 minutes – which is about 10,000 steps – only 7.8 percent in 2010 were getting that,” she said. “In 2013, we increased that to 23.8 percent. We tripled that, but we’re still working on that.”
They also have decreased districtwide BMI (body mass index) by 10 points and increased the number of students considered cardiovascularly fit from 31 percent to 74 percent.
Summer fun and fitness
Summer fitness camps have become a popular way to introduce students, and their families, to healthy activities and healthy living at some schools.
This was the second year for the Fit Falcon Camp at Ft. Wright Elementary in Kenton County. Rose Koehler, the school’s Family Resource and Youth Services Center director, said the weeklong camp was created to give students healthy things to do during non-school months.
“It’s my hope that this is something that carries over for the rest of their lives because we’re making it fun and we’re making it a positive experience,” she said. “Hopefully they will develop positive memories around healthy eating and exercise so it’s not something where we fed them in a gym and made them run for two hours. We want to make it fun so they are more likely to do it as they age. That’s the goal behind it.”
The camp brings together fitness-related businesses that offer Tae Kwon Do, yoga and Crossfit, among other activities, as well as the local health department and health-care providers who also teach about nutrition, who donate their time to do activities with the students. Nearly 40 attended this year.
“I do work a lot, not only with the students, but the parents as well,” Koehler said. “It’s not just the students that we want, but the parents as well, to buy into exercise is fun and let’s do these activities with our kids.”