By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer
The days of dodge ball at Texico Elementary School are done.
The game wasn’t doing enough to increase health awareness and fitness among students. One of the first people to notice was school nurse Karen Stevenson, R.N. During annual check-ups, the nurse saw more and more students suffering from obesity, and type two diabetes.
“Type two diabetes is developed not at birth but later in life. It’s showing up more and more in children, and it used to be just adults. It all comes down to children not getting enough physical activity and poor eating habits,” said Stevenson, employed with the school for nine years.
Dodge ball, of course, isn’t entirely to blame. But the activity was one of the few activities offered at the school of 230 students, according to Principal Wayne Anderson. So when the school received a $53,000 physical education state grant, Anderson immediately focused on expanding the school’s lagging physical education curriculum, built almost entirely around traditional, easy-to-play games.
“Our kids used to go to the cafeteria and then have recess. They were playing about 30 minutes of dodge ball a week, and that didn’t cut it,” the principal said. Now students will have recess before lunch, and their physical education curriculum, a much more comprehensive daily program, will focus on transforming the way the children think about health and physical education.
Anderson said that each child will work on a personal physical education curriculum, tailored to meet his or her unique needs. But the program will focus heavily upon cardiovascular exercise and calisthenics — sit-ups, trunk twists and other muscular developing maneuvers, Anderson said. The school will also increase its equipment supply, and invest in some innovative devices, like weighted jump ropes and two-pound weighted balls. Two new teachers were also hired to help get the program off its feet. Anderson hopes to see tangible results — healthier, happier students, and a decline in obesity, a problem he says is far to common at the elementary school.
“Kids aren’t having to do chores,” Anderson said. “They aren’t working outside and getting the exercise they used to get. It’s rare for a kid to get up to milk a cow these days.” The new program, Anderson hopes, will pick up such slack.
Parkview Elementary School also received grant money through the New Mexico Public Education Department, but officials there unavailable for comment on how they would use the funds. In total, 33 New Mexico schools were awarded NMPED funds.
The three junior high schools in the Clovis District implemented a similar comprehensive physical education program three years ago, piloted by staff, according to Yucca Junior High School Principal Alan Dropps. That program is called “Fit for Life.”
Its goal, he said, is not to produce star athletes, but well-rounded, health conscious individuals.